UN calls for plastic bottle deposit return schemes as part of ocean pollution pledge

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 8 December 2017

Delegates at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya have called for deposits on plastic bottles as part of a resolution pledging to stop pollution in the world’s oceans.

Support from the UN is fantastic but it is our Governments that need to act on that support sooner rather than later to aid our oceans recovery.”

Catherine Gemmell,
MCS Scotland Conservation Officer

The resolution, agreed unanimously earlier this week, demands greater action “to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds” by 2025.

The resolution encourages the use of “container deposit schemes” to address the “high and rapidly increasing levels of marine plastic litter and the expected increase in negative effects on marine biodiversity”.

In the UK, following pressure from organisations including MCS, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has called for evidence on how a deposit return scheme (DRS) could work in England, the Scottish government has said it will introduce a DRS and Wales is also considering one.

Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, says she’s delighted at the news: “The tide is turning here in the UK with the Scottish Government leading the way in September announcing the development and implementation of a deposit return system after two years of campaigning by MCS through the Have You Got The Bottle? Coalition. Now it’s time for the UK and Welsh Governments to take action and take the opportunity to implement harmonised systems across the UK to reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans. Support from the UN is fantastic but it is our Governments that need to act on that support sooner rather than later to aid our oceans recovery.”

Sri Lanka Minister for Environment Anura Dissanayake said his country is taking bold action to turn the tide on plastics.

“We have banned plastic bags and are now working to reduce the number of plastic bottles in the country. We want to be a green and blue beacon of hope in Asia and do everything we can to keep the seas clean,” he said.

Mr Dissanayake said Sri Lanka will implement a ban on single-use plastic products from January 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of making its ocean and coasts “pollution-free” by 2030.

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Help us stop the plastic tide

Did you know?…

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles