The UK government has announced plans to introduce a plastic bottle deposit return scheme to encourage recycling and reduce the volumes of plastic waste which end up in the ocean.
The plastic bottle deposit return scheme is part of the UK government’s broader plan to reduce the use of single-use plastics and combat waste. The deposit scheme could also apply to glass bottles, and steel and aluminium cans.
Customers will be charged the deposit when they purchase one of these products, and although the exact amount is yet to be announced, the BBC reports the similar schemes cost between €0.25 in Germany to SEK 1 (~€0.10) in Sweden.
Consumers will then be able to return their bottles and cans to supermarkets for recycling, at which point their deposit will be returned.
How will this address the scale of the problem?
Some 13bn plastic bottles are purchased in the UK each year, but more than 3bn of these are not recycled. The UK hopes to replicate the success of this type of plastic bottle deposit return scheme in Europe to encourage people to recycle. The proposal will now be subject to review before it enters into force.
The UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, said that the latest announcement was the latest in a line of efforts to protect the environment from plastic pollution. “We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”
Gove added that the success of similar schemes in countries such as Norway, as well as the results of studies undertaken on the subject, indicate that their use is able to encourage the behavioural changes needed to encourage people to recycle.
He concluded: “We need to see a change in attitudes and behaviour, and the evidence shows that reward and return schemes are a powerful agent of change.” The announcement has been broadly welcomed by environmental groups and campaigners.