Drinks bottle deposit scheme ‘needed to turn tide on plastic waste’

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A UK-wide scheme to charge a deposit for drinks bottles, which is paid back when they are returned for recycling, is needed to turn the tide on plastic waste, MPs urged.

All public premises which serve food or drink including leisure and sports centres should be required to provide free drinking water on request, to cut the use of throwaway water bottles, and public water fountains should be encouraged.

Companies should be made financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce, the Environmental Audit Committee said.

The Government should also bring in rules for 50% recycled plastic content in plastic bottles to be achieved by 2023 at the latest, they urged.

In a new report, the committee warned that only 7.5 billion of the 13 billion plastic bottles used in the UK each year are recycled while the rest end up in landfill, are littered or incinerated.

Burning or throwing bottles into landfill produces around 233,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, while littered plastic bottles harm the countryside and wildlife and end up in the seas where they make up a third of all plastic pollution.

With the issue of ocean plastic pollution high on the agenda in the wake of the BBC’s Blue Planet II nature series and campaigns by organisations from Greenpeace to Sky, potential measures to cut plastic waste are under the spotlight.

Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “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.

“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 UK’s recycling rate for plastic bottles has stalled for the past five years, the MPs said.

While consumption of on-the-go soft drinks and water increases, measures are needed to stop bottles ending up as litter or landfill, and the Government should introduce a deposit return scheme for such bottles to boost recycling rates to 90%.

And with 7.7 billion plastic water bottles being used each year in the UK, reducing their use is a priority, the report says.

A spokesman for the Environment Department (Defra) said: “We are determined to tackle plastic waste and have made progress by taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge, and we will be introducing one of the world’s toughest bans on plastic microbeads.

“An independent working group launched a call for evidence to help understand the benefits, costs and impacts of deposit and reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers in England.

“This group is due to provide advice to ministers in early 2018.”

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