The UK uses over 14 billion plastic drinks bottles,
9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles every year.
The Great British Beach Clean 2020, run by the Marine Conservation Society, found an average of 30 drinks containers per 100m of beach surveyed. Inland, almost all litter picks (99%) found drinks containers.
Our surveys have picked up over 1000 plastic bottles in the last year alone!
This pollution on our beaches and riverbanks shows the urgent need for the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead (https://www.haveyougotthebottle.org.uk) and introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS). Scotland became the first UK nation to commit to the scheme, which comes into effect in July 2022.
How it works
You pay a small deposit (20p in Scotland) for every drinks container you buy: this includes PET plastic bottles, glass bottles and steel/aluminium cans, both soft and alcoholic drinks. Then when you have finished, you take it to a designated collection point and get your deposit back. So you are buying the contents but only borrowing the bottle, because you have to give it back – it is a resource.
And where waste has value, there is less litter.
The tax on plastic bags significantly reduced the number washed up on Britain’s beaches. A small deposit on drinks containers could have a similar effect.
What needs to happen?
In 2019 the UK government department DEFRA opened the first consultation, which resulted in a high level of public and stakeholder interest in introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
The second consultation planned for 2020 did not happen. An Early Day Motion was submitted by a group of MPs in 2020, but very few of these are ever debated, even though they attract a great deal of public interest and media coverage. The UK Government remains committed to introducing a DRS, but the Covid-19 pandemic has caused delays: the Environment Bill, which includes the DRS as part of resource efficiency, was due to have its third reading on Tuesday 26 January 2021, but was deferred again.
A second consultation was announced on 24th March, offering Strandliners a chance to collect data and lobby the Government for a DRS and to reduce the number of plastic bottles blighting our beaches and riverbanks. Our April and May events will be an ideal opportunity to do this, but you can help too.
What you can do
Next time you are out on the beach, along a river, in a park and you see a discarded drinks bottle or can:
- Take a photo (if possible)
- Note the material (plastic, metal or glass), size (small: under 750 ml, or large: 750 ml and over) and any brands you can see.
- Take the bottles out of the environment by putting them in the bin or recycling them.
- Send the info to: email@example.com with the subject title “Bottles from… (insert name of town, village, park, beach or river)”.
Strandliners will collate the data for all the bottles found in the environment and send the info to the Government to support the Deposit Return Scheme.
We are primarily focusing on the East Sussex and Kent coastlines and river catchments but the more records the better.
Extended Producer Responsibility
The UK Government has also committed to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, and launched a second consultation in conjunction with the consultation on a deposit return scheme.
The aim is to create a scheme that incentivises producers to design packaging that is easy to recycle and ensure that they pay the full net cost of managing this packaging once it becomes waste. This is in line with the polluter-pays principle.