Michael Gove seeks evidence on plastic bottle deposit scheme

Evidence submitted will be examined by the Government’s working group which includes corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Tesco. Image: Flickr/PolicyExchange

A four-week consultation will call for evidence on how the littering of plastic, metal and glass bottles could be reduced, Gove said at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday (2 October).

Gove commented on the success of deposit return projects in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, where recycling rates of containers are now above 90%.

“This approach has already seen great success in other countries such as Denmark in curbing plastic pollution and we want to hear people’s ideas on how we could make it work in England,” Gove said.

He expressed optimism that the scheme would build on the progress made by the 5p carrier bag charge, which seen usage fall by 83% and more than £95m raised in charitable causes.

Call for evidence

A return scheme would see consumers pay a small deposit for plastic and glass bottles, which can be refunded upon return to a shop. The consultation launch comes a month after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her country would introduce its own national deposit return scheme.

Evidence submitted will be examined by the Government’s working group which includes corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Tesco. The group has been asked to report back early in the New Year.

As coverage of plastic waste has grown, driven by fresh CSR campaigns from the likes of Sky, so have discussions about the UK’s willingness to tackle the issue head on. The UK’s recycling rates for plastic bottles are flatlining at 57%, while other European nations are recording recycling rates for bottles at 98%.

The equivalent of one in 400 of the seven million plastic bottles sold in Britain each day are recycled, with more than 6.98 million going to landfill or ending up in the environment. Last month, MPs confirmed they would reopen an inquiry into the environmental impact of waste from disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles.

‘Once in a lifetime’

Gove also used his speech in Manchester to speak of the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to deliver a green Brexit.

He pledged that the Government would reform the “economically and environmentally disastrous” EU Fisheries Policy along with the Common Agricultural Policy, which he said had “channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the already wealthy, simply because of the amount of land they have”.

Gove described the Conservatives as “the first, and still the most ambitious green party in this country”. This was met with derision by Green Party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley via Twitter.

George Ogleby

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