Strandliners Response to the Government Consultation on a Deposit Return Scheme 2021


The Bottles From…” campaign was created to engage individuals and groups in the East Sussex and Kent area in aiding Strandliners’ response to the Government’s consultation on the type of Deposit Return Scheme as part of the delayed Environment Bill.

So many individuals and groups are picking and clearing mismanaged waste from our beaches, riverbanks, parks, streets, hedges etc. The majority is picked, bagged & binned.
All this rubbish is evidence in the fight to turn the tide on pollution in our environment as if we do not know (and record) what the pollution is, we will not be able put plans into action to stop it returning.

Strandliners surveys continued to supply important data but also fantastic volunteers around the region began to add a recording element to their litter picks. We hope that their extra time and effort in doing this will be rewarded by the common sense that the environment comes first and an all inclusive DRS will be chosen by the Government, but that it will be implemented by 2024 at the very latest.

A total of 4,375 drinking containers lost to the environment were recorded and disposed of appropriately.

The results have shown that all materials, plastic, glass and metal, and all sizes were found. We collated the data and plastic bottles were 65%, metal cans 26% and glass bottles 8% of the total.

Large plastic bottles (750ml and above) constituted 30% of all drinking containers found, showing that if the Government did not choose an all inclusive DRS (excluding large drinking containers) there would still be extensive litter in the environment.

Strandliners have responded to the consultation using the data collected by their surveys and the volunteer recordings. Thank you to everyone involved, a huge task but we are hopeful that everyone’s great work, whether collecting, on a survey, collating the data, filling in the response form, will be able to allow the Government to agree that a fully inclusive DRS will have the greatest impact in a post Covid world.


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. 

This pollution on our beaches and riverbanks shows the urgent need for the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead ( and introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS). Scotland became the first UK nation to commit to the scheme, and their “all-in” scheme comes into effect in July 2022. The Welsh Government’s position for this consultation is that the scope of the deposit return scheme in Wales should be for an “all-in” scheme capturing containers up to 3L in size.

An “all-in” scheme includes all materials, glass, metal and plastic (PET), and all sizes up to 3 litres.

An “on-the-go” scheme as defined by the Government “could mean” only including plastic and metal drinking containers under 750ml.

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, reducing the high numbers of mismanaged drinking containers lost to the environment.

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.


The “Bottles From…” campaign began mid March 2021. A poster was sent out with instructions for collecting the data.

1 – If you see an abandoned drinking bottle or can, rescue it and send us the details.
2 – Send your findings to
3 – Please tell us
Where you found them (park, beach, river etc)
How many & what type
Size – small (under 750ml) or large (750ml and above)

Strandliners sent out posters on social media, to East Sussex & Kent litter picking groups, beachcombing groups and sustainability groups.
The poster had an editable location so that each recipient could have an example of a location near to their area.

All Rother District councillors, Parish Councillors (Rother District), East Sussex County Councillors were emailed and sent the poster for circulation.

The “Bottles from…” campaign was promoted through Strandliners’ members magazine and subscribers news sheet.

Strandliners’ events also collated the drinking containers collected. Data from past clear ups, specifically Fairlight Cove and the River Rother, where new clear ups coincided with the campaign were used.

A photo was also requested if possible to help identify and confirm the recordings were accurate. 83% of emails included photographic evidence of the drinking containers.

We set a specific email address for all recordings to be sent to. All emails sent in to were responded to with a thank you and/or a clarification needed for the information.

Data not verifiable were not included. Only drinking containers taken out of the environment were accepted. Estimates were not accepted for the raw data but notes were made about these observations.

The data was collated and used as part of the response by Strandliners to the Government’s Consultation on the Deposit Return Scheme, Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which ended June 4th 2021.

Poster used in Strandliners ‘Bottles From’ campaign
104 bottles and cans picked up from a recent beach walk at Dungeness


Apart from the two Strandliners clear ups and surveys in 2020, the first emails were received on 22nd March 2021, and all were included up to 1st June 2021.

The data used for this campaign came from:

Strandliners clear up & Brand Audit River Rother October 2020
Strandliners clear up & survey Fairlight Cove September 2020 (Note: no glass bottles or cans were recorded even though they were found.)
Strandliners clear up & Brand Audit River Rother April 2021
Strandliners clear up & survey Fairlight Cove May 2021
30 separate respondents (individuals & groups)
89 separate records

Cans             Plastic bottles <750mlPlastic bottles ≥750mlGlass bottles <750mlGlass bottles ≥750mlTotal
Bottles found by category

Relative proportion of drinks container types

Area included from Lydd, Kent to River Cuckmere, East Sussex on the coast and inland to Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The more focused data was from the coastal strip between Bexhill and Lydd, including towns and villages up to 5 miles inland.

Note: Milk bottles were also recorded by Strandliners and some volunteers but not included in the above data. 162 milk bottles were found i.e. 3.6% of all drinking containers collected. 152 were found on the Strandliners River Rother surveys which was 11.2% of all drinking containers collected along the River Rother surveys.


This shows the need for an all-in deposit scheme, because a roughly equal amount of large and small plastic bottles have been found in the last year. An ‘on-the-go’ scheme would leave these bottles in the environment.

The proportion of glass would be greater than the 8.25% shown here, but the Strandliners Fairlight Berm 2020 event did not record cans or glass because that was not the focus at the time. If that event is removed from the data, the proportion of glass rises to almost 11%. Therefore it is important that glass is considered in a deposit return scheme.

These recorded mismanaged drinking containers will only be a small proportion of the total lost into the environment in the campaign area. The participants would not be the only ones picking up litter, including drinking containers, in this area as there are now many groups and individuals going about this work, some connected to existing groups, others not.

In our campaign, photographs were included in 83% of emails and for 68% of all recordings, so we could ensure the recordings of numbers, sizes and material were accurate.

Strandliners survey events did not photograph all the drinking containers as the volunteers were experienced at identification and itemising through Strandliners Community Action Team training (CAT) and participation in many surveys since 2019.

Estimations are not included. An Ore group (Hastings) estimated 25 small and 3 large plastic bottles were cleared every week.

Emails without all details were not included.


Our data shows that all sizes and all materials of drinking container are recorded in our environment. Plastic may be the most common material but the proportion of glass, which is infinitely recyclable, is significant. Our data also shows that there is only a small difference between the number of plastic drinking bottles under 750ml and those 750 ml and above.

Therefore an all-inclusive deposit return scheme will the most successful in reducing the mismanaged waste in our environment.

If a partial deposit return scheme was implemented, it would still lead to 40% of all of our records in the environment. It could also be seen as confusing to the public

If Scotland are introducing an all-in DRS and Wales are considering the same system, it will be confusing for producers if England and Northern Ireland have different systems, as it will involve different packaging and labelling for different nations within the UK.

If 20p could be reclaimed on each of the containers (20p is recommended in the Scotland scheme) Strandliners and volunteers have picked up (and removed from the environment) in the last 10 months, this would be worth nearly £900! As well as closing a path of mismanaged waste entering our environment.