MCS tells leading supermarkets – don't de-rail ‘all-in’ DRS

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 18 April 2019

The head of MCS has written an open letter to the CEOs of the UKs top ten supermarkets telling them they must back the introduction of a money-back recycling system for drinks bottles and cans that includes containers of all sizes and materials.

Bottles for Change Wave
© Ray Phan

Lobbying behind the scenes must not be allowed to derail the most ambitious and comprehensive scheme from being introduced

Sandy Luk,
MCS Chief Executive Officer

Defra has a consultation running until May 13th asking the public, businesses and industry on the type of Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) they would like to see – including how it should be operated and the size and material of drinks bottles and cans to be included.

MCS’s CEO, Sandy Luk, said any DRS must also be run as a not-for-profit system and be consistent across all parts of the United Kingdom. The charity says anything less will fail to produce the environmental outcomes we need to see, which is less litter and plastic poisoning marine wildlife and polluting our waterways, seas and oceans.

In her letter, Luk, says some companies and manufacturers seem keen to thwart the introduction of a comprehensive scheme: “It is highly regrettable that some elements in UK industry, with vested interests, seem intent on making up as many excuses as possible to resist a scheme which will remove and recycle the largest numbers of containers. Lobbying behind the scenes must not be allowed to derail the most ambitious and comprehensive scheme from being introduced.”

BFC Sandy Luk

Supermarkets received the letter as MCS launches its latest campaign #BottlesforChange backed by BBC2’s Dragon’s Den star and MCS Ocean Ambassador, Deborah Meaden, who said: “Over 20 billion bottles and cans end up buried, burned or in the environment each year in the UK. This has to end. I’m supporting the #BottlesForChange campaign and urge businesses and industry to act now – support a money-back recycling scheme for drinks cans and bottles of all sizes and materials throughout the UK. There are so many benefits this would bring to businesses large and small – increased footfall, reduction in litter and increased revenue are just a few. Let’s get behind the Marine Conservation Society’s vision for an all-in deposit return scheme.”

Lobbyists for industry have been working hard behind the scenes to try to put pressure on the Environment Secretary Michael Gove to introduce an “on the go” scheme, which would only include the smallest bottles and containers. In other countries, where this has been tried, retailers and manufacturers managed to get around the rules.

In a separate letter to the Environment Secretary, Sandy Luk, warned Mr Gove not to fall for a ‘limited’ money back scheme. She said she welcomes his department’s wide-ranging DRS consultation, and strongly hoped it would lead to the urgent introduction of a fully comprehensive “all-in” scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, compatible with that in Scotland.

Scotland is already designing its system following a public consultation and indications are that it will be ambitious.

Luk says it’s crucial that an all-inclusive scheme, which as a minimum accepts all sizes and materials - plastic, glass bottles and cans, is introduced and not one which limits the size of containers or excludes certain materials, “for which some elements of industry have been evidently lobbying government,” she said.

“The experience in other countries shows that if size limits are introduced, producers simply make bigger or smaller bottles to circumvent the scheme. In addition, evidence has shown that restricting the sizes of containers to which the scheme applies just confuses consumers. This must be avoided in the UK,” said Sandy Luk in her letter to Michael Gove.

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MCS is asking members of the public and businesses to take part in the UK Government’s consultation before it closes on May 13th, via a pre-filled form on their BottlesforChange.uk website – it takes just two minutes.

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