Plastic litter in the sea Rich Carey

Drinks litter is one of the most commonly found items on our beaches. We are calling for Deposit Return Schemes to be urgently introduced.

What is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?

You pay a small deposit on top of the price of a drink. When finished, you return the drinks container to a collection point, in a supermarket or shop for example, where you get your money back.

This sort of system would reduce littering, putting a value on what is commonly seen as 'worthless', and encourage others to pick up drinks litter they come across. It’s a simple idea which would have an immediate impact.

Why do we need Deposit Return Schemes?

DRS reduce litter and help the drive towards a circular economy - where materials aren’t lost, but used again and again.

Over the last 26 years (1994-2019) we've seen a 32% increase in drinks containers across the UK.

Since we started our beach clean surveys in 1994, drinks containers have been a constant presence. Over the last five years, an average of 48 drinks containers were found on every 100 metres of beach surveyed and cleared.



of inland cleans found drinks-related litter in 2021

Progress in the UK

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The UK Government for England, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland launched a second consultation in early 2021, seeking insight from members of the public and businesses into how a DRS could work. Read our response to the consultation.

This consultation follows one introduced in 2018, sparking our Bottles for Change campaign which gathered more than 25,000 signatures in support of a DRS for all drinks containers, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As of autumn 2022, we're still waiting for the official response of the consultation and to find out when a DRS will be introduced.

We’ve seen incredible public support for a Deposit Return Scheme and further delay means more bottles and cans blighting our beaches.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas


Scotland was the first nation in the UK to commit to a DRS which will include PET plastic bottles, glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.

Prices for drinks in these types of containers will include a deposit of 20p per bottle or can, which will be fully refunded when returned for recycling.

The scheme is due to be implemented in August 2023 and the Scottish Government aims to have a 90% return rate within the first three years. It’s a big step towards Scotland having a circular economy.

We've been working to reduce marine pollution for over decade

Learn more about our work