We welcome the news today that Coca-Cola is performing a considerable and unexpected U-turn, publicly supporting the introduction of a deposit return system for the UK.  This comes the same week as waste collection giants Suez also publicly back the introduction of a deposit return system for the UK.

A deposit return system can capture over 90% of bottle and cans in the recycling economy and prevent plastic pollution from reaching our oceans.  A small deposit of between 10-20p would be added to the purchase price of a drink and the deposit could be reclaimed in full when the container is returned to the designated recycling points.  This high-quality recyclate can then support the beverage industry’s aspirations to produce 100% recycled bottles, moving away from single-use plastics and towards a sustainable circular economy.  There are successful deposit return systems operating across Europe and throughout America, Australia and Canada.

SAS CEO Hugo Tagholm says:  “Surfers Against Sewage welcomes Coca Cola’s U-turn to now support the introduction of a Deposit Return Systems in Scotland and hope this will be reflected through nationwide support. This is the right thing to do to protect the marine environment and conserve precious resources, and one which over 200,000 Surfer Against Sewage supporters have been calling for through our recent petition to stop plastic bottle pollution. Our vision is a plastic free coastline and Deposit Return Systems are a proven way of trapping plastic in the economy rather than letting it escape into our oceans and onto our beaches.”

In the not too distant past Coca-Cola has strongly opposed deposit returns, telling a 2015 Zero Waste Scotland consultation that “DRS doesn’t encourage packaging reduction or recyclability”.  Last year leaked internal Coca-Cola Europe documents showed how the company viewed deposit return systems as something they should “fight back against”.

This dramatic change of heart is an important milestone for the campaign as Coca-Cola is the largest soft drinks company in the world.  A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: “Our sustainable packaging review is ongoing, but it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway.”

Earlier this week David Palmer-Jones, the CEO of Suez, one of the largest waste collection and recycling companies in the UK also added his public support for deposit return systems, explaining how “investing in a UK-wide deposit scheme for plastic bottles makes not just environmental sense but, importantly, economic sense too.  It puts pounds in the pockets of both households and business through reduced waste disposal costs and reduced need to buy virgin raw materials.”

Deposit return systems are proving to be incredibly popular with the public too.  A survey in Scotland demonstrated that 78% supported the introduction of a deposit return system with only 8% opposed.  And our petition to introduce deposit return systems surpassed 200,000 this week, making it the largest surf/enviro petition ever!

Now we hope the UK Governments listen the public, the drinks and waste & recycling industry and NGOs and start a consultation on how to introduce the most effective deposit return system as soon as possible.