Beach litter at Crantock beach Cornwall Natasha Ewins

Public remains steadfast in their call for Deposit Return Schemes

2 minute read

Victoria Riglen, Head of Communications and Campaigns

1 Jun 2021

The charity’s research finds that the English and Welsh public continue to support pollution-busting schemes.

The Marine Conservation Society has shared the results of a public survey which shows the continued support of the public for Deposit Return Schemes (DRS). In England, 77% of adults said they supported the scheme and in Wales, 72% of adults were in support.

The charity surveyed the public’s opinion of a DRS in 2017, finding similarly high levels of support for the scheme – 73% in England and 71% in Wales.

In early 2018, then Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that a DRS would be introduced in England. Consumers would pay a small deposit on top of the price of a drink, which is then refunded when the bottle or can is returned to a designated destination. The proposed launch for the scheme is now 2024, seven years after Westminster first announced it, during which time billions of bottles and cans will continue to pollute the environment.

The Scottish Government has already committed to having a Deposit Return Scheme in place by 2022, leaving England and Wales falling behind.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society says: “Deposit Return Schemes would have an immediate and tangible impact on the amount of drinks related litter we see on the UK’s beaches year in, year out. Apart from the progress in Scotland, the other UK governments have offered nothing but empty promises since 2017 and it’s high time there were firm commitments and frameworks put in place.”

The charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean has found drinks litter consistently throughout the 27 years the events have been running. Drinks related litter, including bottle caps and lids, cans, and glass or plastic bottles, are a common occurrence on the UK’s beaches. Over the last 5 years an average of 45 drinks containers were found on each 100 metres of beach cleaned by Marine Conservation Society volunteers.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the charity this month found that across England and Wales, the public are supportive of a DRS including not just plastic bottles (77% in England and 76% in Wales), but also glass (75%), cans (67% in England and 63% in Wales) and cartons (57% in England and 58% in Wales).

The Marine Conservation Society has seen the positive effects of pollution-busting policies in the past:

Dr Laura Foster continues: “Carrier bag charges gave a value to a throwaway item and as a result, we’ve seen consistently less plastic bags on beaches. Deposit Return Schemes would undoubtedly have the same effect. Giving bottles and cans a value, as little as a 20p deposit, would encourage everyone to not only think twice before throwing them away, but also consider picking up bottles and cans they see in the environment.”

Since the introduction of the 5p single-use carrier bag charges in 2010 in Wales, and 2015 in England, the Marine Conservation Society has seen a 55% drop in the number of bags found on UK beaches. The drastic drop in plastic bags on beaches shows the real impact policies have on the state of the UK’s seas and beaches.

A second consultation on a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland is set to close on Friday 4th June, 2021. The Marine Conservation Society wants to see more urgent action being taken and is asking the public to tweet their MP to let them know that our ocean counts and we need a Deposit Return Scheme, now, to save our seas.

For more information on how to respond to the consultation, and the Marine Conservation Society’s work on the Deposit Return Scheme, please visit the charity’s website: