MPs back plastic bottle deposit return scheme

The Environment Audit Committee (EAC) has today (22 December) urged the Government to launch a nationwide plastic bottle deposit return scheme and improve producer responsibility obligations.

The UK’s recycling rate for plastic bottles has stalled for the past five years. But MPs believe that a deposit return scheme would help to boost the UK’s plastic recycling rate to 90%.

“Urgent action is needed to protect our environment from the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution which, if it continues to rise at current rates, will outweigh fish by 2050,” EAC Chair Mary Creagh said.

“Our throwaway society uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled. Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches.  We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back the plastic tide.”

The EAC is concerned that packaging producers only pay for 10% of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for the rest. It urges the Government to phase in a mandated 50% recycled content in plastic bottles by 2023.

Creagh said: “Packaging producers don’t currently have to bear the full financial burden of recycling their packaging.

“By reforming producer responsibility charges, the Government can ensure that producers and retailers will have financial incentives to design packaging that is easily recyclable, or face higher compliance costs.”

Hot topic

Plastic waste is one of the hot topics in the sustainability agenda, thanks to heightened scrutiny from campaigners and politicians concerned about the UK’s languishing recycling rates and damaging build-up of plastic waste in oceans.

The Government has launched a consultation on how a tax system could reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste created by containers such as packaging and polystyrene takeaway boxes.

Meanwhile, supermarket giants Iceland and the Co-op have given their backing to the introduction of a nationwide bottle deposit return scheme (DRS) to help reduce plastic pollution.

George Ogleby

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