SAS Volunteers Collect Vital Plastic Bottle Data in UK’s Largest Ever Beach and River Survey
- The UK Government announced that a drink bottle Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) would come into place in England, following an earlier commitment in Scotland, but questions are being raised about the size of bottles to be included. The British Retail Consortium says only plastic bottles up to a certain size should be part of the scheme.
- The new research reveals the vital need to include ALL plastic bottle sizes or the new system will end up watered down and fail to tackle plastic pollution found on UK beaches and rivers.
- Our petition ‘Bring Back Bottle Deposits to Stop Plastic Pollution in Our Oceans’, supported by 329,000 citizens and delivered to 10 Downing Street, called for a comprehensive and inclusive system to be introduced on plastic beverage bottles and cans.
SAS People Power
Thanks to our amazing networks of volunteers right across the UK, we have conducted the largest ever volunteer-led survey of single-use drinks bottles found on UK beaches and rivers.
The new data collected by ‘citizen scientists’ reveals that 58% of plastic bottles found on British beaches and rivers were 750ml or larger and risk being excluded from a new Deposit Return Scheme, due to their size, if the government doesn’t deliver an inclusive system covering all sizes of plastic beverage bottles.
Earlier this year after campaigns from Surfers Against Sewage and numerous other environmental charities, the UK Government announced that a drink bottle Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) would come into place in England, following a similar campaign and earlier commitment in Scotland. Surfers Against Sewage’s petition ‘Bring Back Bottle Deposits to Stop Plastic Pollution in Our Oceans’, supported by 329,000 citizens and delivered to 10 Downing Street in 2017, called for a comprehensive and inclusive system to be introduced on plastic beverage bottles and cans. This type of system is proven to be the most effective based on existing schemes around the world, which collect over 95% of plastic bottles for recycling.
But since the announcement there have been some questions about the size of bottle to be included and campaigners fear that the effectiveness of the new scheme will be undermined by only including the smallest size of plastic bottle. Volunteers counted and measured 27,696 single-use drinks containers and found that less than half of the plastic bottles were a small size (less than 750ml), which would exclude 58% from schemes proposed by some industry representatives.
Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage: “In 2017, we delivered a clear mandate to the UK government calling for an inclusive, nationwide, deposit return system, backed by over 320,000 citizens. A clear, comprehensive system is a proven way to capture and recycle almost 100% of plastic beverage bottles and containers. The most effective deposit return systems globally are the most inclusive – covering all sizes of beverage containers.”
Hugo continues: “Our recent survey of plastic bottles on beaches and along rivers reinforces the need for an ambitious and inclusive deposit return scheme. Almost 28,000 drinks containers were monitored across 487 locations showing the vital need for an inclusive system. This will be the most understandable for the public, ensuring that recycling becomes simpler and more effective, and helping create a truly circular plastic economy whilst protecting our streets, rivers, beaches and ocean from the tide of plastic bottle pollution.
Between 20-28 October, 21,238 Surfers Against Sewage volunteers took part in 487 beach and river cleans and counted 27,696 single use drinks containers, revealing by far the highest proportion were made of plastic (15,820). Cans were the second highest (8,672) followed by glass bottles (2,688) and other containers such as tetra parks and cartons (516). The plastic bottle sizes found were:
- Small bottles (under 750 ml): 6,678 bottles (42%)
- 750 ml to Extra Large (e.g. 2 Litre party bottle): 9142 (58 %)
In light of this new data Surfers Against Sewage calls for the UK Government to introduce a simple and inclusive Deposit Return Scheme for ALL size drinks bottles.
SAS is sharing the findings with the Government and will be speaking to DEFRA Minister Dr Therese Coffey MP next week in advance of a new consultation on the new scheme in England.
How does a Deposit Return Scheme work? Colleagues at Reloop explain: