The Kent countryside is littered with discarded single-use drinks bottles and cans. CPRE has been calling for the solution for over 10 years: a simple system that prevents the littering of drinks containers and ensures recycling rates of more than 90 per cent: an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Yet, despite committing two years ago to making this happen, the government is seeking to delay and water down its promises once again. We’re sending a message in a bottle directly to the prime minister, telling him to commit to an all-in DRS now. Will you add your name? Public pressure has worked before. In 2018, our campaigning led to the then-environment secretary Michael Gove giving his support for an all-in DRS. Since then, even big drinks producers like Coca-Cola have agreed that the scheme is the answer to our litter problem. But now the government has released another, worrying, consultation. Not only is it delaying the scheme until the end of 2024 at the earliest but it’s also still considering a half-hearted design that will set the system up to fail. We can’t let this happen. Together we can make this a priority again with a message straight to our decision-makers: don’t dilute or delay a Deposit Return Scheme. Join us now for one last push.
To add your name to our message in a bottle, please click here and sign the petition
The much-anticipated deposit return scheme (DRS) is to be delayed until at least 2024, sparking a sharp response from CPRE Kent, the countryside charity. It was three years ago almost to the day that then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced we would all be paying a deposit of up to 22 pence on plastic and glass bottles, as well as on aluminium cans. That deposit could, of course, be reclaimed. It was suggested the DRS might arrive as early as 2020, although a year later the government said it would be brought in for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023. However, yesterday (Thursday, March 24), in announcing a second DRS consultation, the government said such a scheme would not be introduced until late 2024, at the earliest. Unsurprisingly, this has not gone down well with the countryside charity, which has campaigned long and hard for a DRS. Tom Fyans, CPRE campaigns and policy director, said before the announcement was made: “‘Despite huge public appetite to tackle the waste crisis, we have mountains of litter piling up in our countryside. “New research shows that around eight billion drinks containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year. Despite all this, the government looks set to delay a deposit return scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking its responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue. This amounts to six long years of dither and delay. “This delay is so much more than kicking the can down the road – it seems that in the face of industry lobbying, ministers would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle the problem of waste head on. “The public want to see action, not just warm words. The evidence is clear that an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme is the best option for people, planet and our economy, yet the government is showing no leadership on the issue at all. “It beggars belief that when the evidence is so clear that an ‘all-in’ deposit system is needed, it is still unwilling to make the polluter pay.”
More than one in four bottles littering our countryside may not be included in the deposit return scheme (DRS) if the government buckles under pressure from industry, according to CPRE. Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, which will allow for the creation of the DRS, CPRE is urging the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material – to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying. The Bill allows for the creation of the DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced. Evidence for an ‘all-in’ scheme continues to build, with the CPRE’s Green Clean, a nationwide litter-pick carried out in September, suggesting that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering our countryside if industry secured a limited system to serve their vested interests. Key stats from CPRE’s Green Clean, which took place across England, include:
Almost a quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the ‘on the go’ DRS being pushed by key industries
More than a quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders
Some 7,500 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter-pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles
Additionally, more than one in 10 drinks containers collected were glass, a figure that does not include the shattered pieces of glass volunteers were unable to count. These would all be left to harm people, and wildlife, should industry succeed in excluding glass from the deposit return scheme. Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive, said: “It’s great to see the government include powers to introduce a DRS in the Environment Bill, but as the results of our nationwide litter-pick demonstrate, to be an effective deterrent to the high volumes of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes. “To boost recycling rates for all drinks containers – cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and pouches – the only option is for the government to introduce an ‘all-in’ system. “The industries that would be required to pay for the deposit return scheme continue to try to limit its scope, but we urge the government to prioritise the needs of the environment and society over corporate vested interests. “As the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the publication of the Environment Bill, it was encouraging to hear her recognise the benefits of the DRS in England being the same as the DRS being introduced in Scotland, which will be ‘all-in’. “This provides further hope that the government is listening as we make the case for an ambitious approach to tackling the problem of litter. But there is no time to waste, so we hope the DRS element of the Bill will be a priority as the government takes forward this vital piece of legislation.”
One in five people using a UK-wide deposit return system would donate the deposits they had paid on drinks cans and bottles to charity all the time, producing potential annual donations of more than £1 billion to good causes. The results came from a survey carried out by ICM Unlimited and published by CPRE on Monday (May 27). A further 19 per cent of respondents said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and more than a third (34 per cent) would donate at least some of the time. This could lead to a further £1.3 billion in donations to local charitable causes from the deposits on glass and plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans, the CPRE analysis found. The donations could be even higher if drinks cartons and pouches were also included in England’s deposit system – something Environment Secretary Michael Gove is considering. CPRE states that by including an option for the public to donate their deposits – something that is part of most other deposit systems around the world – we could build on the huge success of the carrier-bag charge, which, as well as reducing plastic bag usage by more than 80 per cent, raised £66 million for good causes in 2016-17. Samantha Harding, CPRE’s litter programme director, said: “Not only would the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return system put a stop to most of the environmental damage caused by drinks containers and boost recycling rates in excess of 90 per cent, it could also provide much-needed funding for good causes across the country. “It is fantastic and really heartening that so many people would be happy to donate their deposits in this way. “An effective ‘all-in’ deposit return system will bring an end to the growing disenchantment and scepticism around current recycling methods by doubling current recycling rates. “But it’s also evident that the deposit, as well as encouraging the right behaviour in terms of recycling, would allow for people’s generous natures to be realised when it comes to supporting others. ‘It’s important to ensure that England’s scheme includes every bottle, can, carton and pouch, whatever the shape, size or material. “Not only will this halt the devastation caused to our countryside and environment by drinks container pollution, but if every type of drinks packaging is included in the scheme, it could result in more donated deposits, benefiting nature and local communities.” In the UK, it is estimated that 28 billion single-use glass, plastic and aluminium drinks bottles and cans are sold every year in the UK, according to recent government figures. Due to ineffective waste collection and recycling systems, overall recycling rates in the UK have stagnated at about 45 per cent. This results in a large number of drinks containers either left polluting the countryside, waterways and streets or being sent for incineration or buried in landfill, rather than recycled. Through its monetary incentive, an effective UK-wide deposit return system has the potential to boost recycling rates for drinks containers to more than 90 per cent. CPRE is highlighting that this would significantly reduce the environmental damage they cause, as well as ensuring that the producers of drinks packaging become financially responsible for the full costs of the waste they create. Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced its plans to introduce a deposit return system for glass, plastic and aluminium drinks containers of all sizes. CPRE is calling for the UK government to build on Scotland’s ambition by introducing a fully comprehensive ‘all-in’ system, including all drinks containers of all sizes and materials, to make sure that England gets the most effective and economically viable deposit system in the world.
We should be seeing a lot fewer of these lying around our countryside
CPRE’s campaign for a deposit return scheme on drinks bottles and cans has finally won the day.
Environment secretary Michael Gove announced yesterday (Tuesday, March 27) that we will all pay a deposit of up to 22 pence on plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminium cans. This deposit can of course be reclaimed.
CPRE has campaigned for the introduction of a deposit return system (DRS) in England for 10 years and is obviously thrilled with Mr Gove’s announcement.
It is a watershed moment for recycling in the UK, given that similar systems around the world produce excellent results.
The decision follows a call for evidence in October last year that investigated how littering with drinks containers could be cut and the recycling of them increased.
The evidence submitted was examined by retail giants such as Coca-Cola and Tesco, alongside other members of the Voluntary and Economic Incentives Working Group, for which CPRE provided the secretariat.
There has been increasing pressure from environmental groups, the media and the public for more action to be taken against the tide of waste polluting our environment, with single-use drinks containers being a huge contributor.
The new DRS for England, which follows the Scottish government’s announcement last year that it would be introducing a similar scheme, will be consulted upon this year. It is not yet apparent whether all retailers of single-use drinks will have to participate.
Samantha Harding, CPRE’s litter programme director, said: “This is a brilliant and significant decision by Michael Gove.
“I am thrilled that we will finally see the many benefits a deposit system will bring to England, not least the absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside.
“What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays. This really is a bold and exciting step by the government.”
Bill Bryson, author and former CPRE president, said: “I wholeheartedly congratulate Michael Gove for his wisdom in finally accepting the case for a deposit return system in the UK – I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.
“Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policy-making, and one that raises the prospect of the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks-container litter at last.
“My most profound gratitude goes to the tireless campaigners and heroic litter-pickers of CPRE who, for the past decade, have kept the issue alive in the minds of our politicians, press and public.”
Emma Bridgewater, president of CPRE, added: “This landmark announcement is the breakthrough we have been waiting for.
“CPRE have been campaigning for the introduction of a DRS for almost 10 years – it has been a long battle, but this significant victory is an enormous leap forward in the war against waste.
“Our countryside, oceans and wildlife have long been the victim of our obsession with single-use bottles and cans, with the UK producing billions of them year after year.
“Many end up damaging our natural environments and killing our wildlife – and it is also a shocking waste of valuable materials. The proven success of DRS in other countries means that now most of these bottles and cans will be captured and recycled – we congratulate the government on their decision.”