Tesco backs bottle deposit refund scheme

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 12 January 2018

MCS says it’s delighted to see Tesco throwing its weight behind a deposit refund scheme (DRS), and hopes the Prime Minister, Theresa May, will take note. She sidestepped questions on the introduction of such a scheme yesterday when she launched her environmental 25 year plan which contained no mention of a DRS in the detail.

© Tim Fanshaw

We want to see the UK Government follow its own Environmental Audit Committee recommendation to introduce schemes across that works closely with that being developed for Scotland

Dr Laura Foster,
MCS Head of Clean Seas

There have been growing calls for a UK-wide scheme to charge a deposit for drinks bottles, which is paid back when they are returned for recycling, as part of efforts to reduce the billions of single-use bottles Britons get through each year.

MCS was a founding member of the ‘Have You Got the Bottle?’ campaign and has been key in getting commitments from the Scottish Government to introduce a deposit refund scheme there. Zero Waste Scotland has been asked to create a model help the Scottish Government assess impacts and benefits.

Since 2013, MCS beach clean volunteers have picked up over 21,680 metal drinks containers, 71,879 caps and lids and 32,238 during the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean held every September.

Around half of plastic bottles used in the UK each year are recycled, while the rest end up in landfill, are incinerated or littered, making up some of the most visible plastic pollution in the countryside, beaches and oceans.

As consumption of on-the-go soft drinks and water increases, MPs on Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee have called for the Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for such bottles to boost recycling rates to 90%. Schemes in operate in a number of countries including Sweden, Denmark, Australia and German where DRS machines are located in supermarkets and up to 99% of plastic bottles are recycled.

“MCS volunteers have been collecting beach litter data for over 20 years and it has shown the extent of the bottle problem. Retailers are becoming increasingly vocal that they would like a harmonised approach across the UK, and we want to see the UK Government follow its own Environmental Audit Committee recommendation to introduce a scheme that works closely with the one being developed for Scotland,” says Dr Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We do support developing a cost-effective deposit return system and are currently working with a number of partners to scope a project to explore how this can operate in practice and at scale.

“We view DRS as only one aspect of the holistic approach that is required to achieve the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.”

At the launch the her 25-year environment plan, Theresa May said the Government was looking at the best ways to tackle the issue of bottles. But when quizzed on deposit return schemes she said: “We want to look at the evidence of what works.”

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are 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. Take action now!

Actions you can take

  1. Take your own reusable bottle out and about
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  3. Join the Plastic Challenge
  4. Help us stop the plastic tide
  5. Report your #wildbottlesighting using our form
  6. Learn about Deposit Return Systems
  7. See our map of reported bottle sightings
  8. Survey showing public support

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

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes