All parties should back bottle recycling scheme, say conservationists

All political parties are being urged to back a recycling scheme for drink containers in their manifestos.

A coalition of environmental groups is calling for a UK-wide deposit return scheme as parties prepare to unveil their proposed policies ahead of the July 4 General Election.

The scheme, which would see consumers recoup a small deposit when they return single-use bottles and cans, has been in development by the Environment Department (Defra) since 2017 and was part of the 2019 Tory manifesto.

But its planned launch date was put back from 2024 to 2027 after heavy criticism from some in the drinks industry and discrepancies between devolved administrations over the inclusion of glass.

Surfers Against Sewage, Reloop, the Marine Conservation Society and Keep Britain Tidy said the policy is “overwhelmingly popular” with the British public.

The groups cited a poll published on Thursday which suggested that nearly seven in 10 adults support the introduction of a deposit return scheme to cut drinks litter and boost recycling.

The survey of 1,000 people, conducted by Portland Communications on behalf of Reloop from January 19-24, also found that 77% of Conservative voters, 69% of Labour voters and 71% of Liberal Democrat voters back the policy.

Jenni Hume, UK and Ireland director at Reloop, said: “We’ve heard positive things from all major parties about the deposit return scheme over recent months, now it’s time to commit these warm words to the pages of their manifestos.

“A bottle deposit scheme is an overwhelmingly popular reform which would incentivise everyone to do their part to drive up recycling rates and quality for drinks bottles and cans, with international examples showing remarkable reductions of litter in parks, rivers and beaches.”

Louise Reddy, policy officer at Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The public are sick of plastic pollution, and we’re challenging politicians to take immediate action.

“People and the planet desperately need to see commitments to end the scourge of pollution flowing into the ocean. Those in power need to act now.”

The campaigners highlighted the success of similar deposit return schemes in countries like Germany, Norway, Finland and Latvia, which have seen an increase in plastic bottle recycling rates and reductions in litter.

Meanwhile, Keep Britain Tidy’s recent national litter survey found drink containers made up 75% of UK street litter by volume and the Marine Conservation Society found them on 93% of beaches surveyed.

Catherine Gemmell, policy and advocacy manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “The problem is only getting worse, with an increase in bottles and cans on those beaches rising 14% compared to the previous year.

“The good news is we know that deposit return schemes work and will turn the tide on this problem, reducing the amount of litter entering our ocean and preventing it from damaging our marine wildlife. Our seas can’t wait any longer for them to start.”

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “The next government needs to be aware – the environment needs this, and the public demands it.”