England will be getting a long-awaited deposit return scheme for bottles and cans in a bid to “slash” plastic pollution.
The scheme was announced by the government on Wednesday, with a consultation to be held later in the year to decide the specifics.
Global Citizen reported on the scheme earlier this week, when a leaked report indicated the initiative was coming.
It would involve customers paying small amount extra when they buy their drinks, which would then be paid back when they return the containers for recycling.
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Once the bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled — currently, plastics producers pay just 10% of costs for recycling packaging, according to the BBC.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said plastic is “wreaking havoc” on our oceans and the marine environment, by “killing dolphins, choking turtles, and degrading our most precious habitats.”
“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” he said, announcing the plans.
He added that plastic bottles and cans too often “end up dumped on pavements and lobbed into rivers, lakes, and the sea.”
“We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans,” he added.
It’s believed that the scheme will cover single-use glass and plastic bottles, as well as steel and aluminium cans.
And environmental campaigners are thrilled with the announcement.
Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said it was a “brilliant and significant decision.”
“I am thrilled that we will finally see the many benefits a deposit scheme will bring to England, not least the absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside,” she said.
“What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays,” she added.
Author Bill Bryson, himself a former president of Campaign to Protect Rural England, added: “Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking, and one that raises the prospect of the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last.”
The consultation will look at the details of how such a scheme would work — including how much the deposit will be — alongside other measures to increase recycling rates, according to the statement from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.
Scotland has already included developing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to be rolled out across the country in its “Government’s Programme for Scotland” report on the aims for 2017-18.
It added in the report that it would “go further” in efforts to end the “throw-away culture,” by examining how to reduce demand for single-use items, like disposable coffee cups.
“We will appoint an expert panel to advise on the use of charges, similar to the successful plastic bag charge, with the goal of encouraging long-term and sustainable changes in consumer behaviour,” it added.
Wales has also launched a study to consider it, according to the BBC.
Britain uses around 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, with 7.5 billion ending up in landfill, being incinerated, or in the oceans.
Deposit return schemes have already seen great success across the rest of the world. Shoppers in Sweden pay a deposit of 8p, while in Germany it’s 22p — which has led to a 97% recycling rate.
It’s often done through a network of “reverse vending machines,” where shoppers put their bottle or can into the machine to get their deposit back.
A leaked report earlier in the week suggested that launching the scheme could reduce litter from bottles and cans by at least 70% in the UK. It also predicted it would create between 3,000 and 4,300 full-time jobs.
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