Plastic litter on a sandy beach

Deposit Return Scheme

The ocean is drowning in Plastic Pollution.

We demand an all-in Deposit Return Scheme to help turn off the plastic tap.

In the UK, we use 38.5 million plastic bottles every day. We struggle to recycle even half of those. This contributes to the staggering 8 billion containers that are washed into the ocean every year. It’s unacceptable, and unnecessary.

A Deposit Return Scheme works as a system to encourage the reuse and recycling of drinks containers by paying a deposit for the container of the drink you buy which you get back when you return it. Over the past 7 years, governments across the UK have been promising to deliver a deposit return scheme. However, after years of delay from government and strong push back from producers and retailers, the future of the scheme becomes increasingly uncertain.

A simple scheme to ensure producers pay for the pollution they create and take pollution from our streets, beaches and ocean has become a political football across the UK. Despite over 40 countries across the world delivering similar schemes with great success, the UK government continue to bend to the pressure of lobbyists meddling in its future.

Deposit Return Schemes offer us an alternative to choking our planet with plastic. In Norway, a Deposit Return Scheme captures 97% of the country’s single-use bottles. And we estimate that in the UK a Deposit Return Scheme would capture at least 55% of the plastic packaging flowing into the ocean produced by the top polluting companies.

Imagine it this way: you’re buying the contents, but renting the container.

Remember milkmen? It’s the same idea with plastic, glass and metal drinks containers. So, you buy your usual drink and it’s 20p more expensive than before, but you get this deposit back when you take it back to the shop, or post it into the reverse vending machine. This bottle can then be recycled, refilled and reused over and over. It’s as simple as that.

We demand the government end their dithering and delay and implement a Deposit Return Scheme this year. After announcing plans for a DRS in 2018, the government consulted the public on the scheme in 2019, and again in 2021. They have since gone silent. The government must urgently respond to the consultation to move forward with the plans.

There are two important aspects:

The scheme must include containers of all sizes. A scheme which is not ‘all-in’ and focuses on only ‘on-the-go containers’ would be a significant oversight. Our 2018 citizen science bottle monitoring research showed that 58% of bottles we find on beaches would be excluded from an ‘on-the-go’ system. An ‘all-in’ scheme would generate £5.5 billion and save six times more carbon than an ‘on-the-go’ system.

The scheme must include containers of all materials. This means it covers bottles made from glass as well as plastic and metal. This is something the government promised in their 2019 manifesto, but have recently indicated may not be the case.

We are calling on communities across the UK to show their elected representatives their concerns for pollution in your local area and show your support for a deposit return scheme. We are hearing from politicians that they do not believe plastic pollution is a priority for the public and we want to prove them wrong.

There are many ways to show your local politicians why you care about plastic pollution:

You could share this video on social media, copying in your local MP to ask them what they are doing to tackle plastic pollution.

You could use our email template to write to your MP, telling them why you are concerned about plastic, how you think it impacts you in your local community and asking them to take action.

You could even ask them to meet with you or visit a hub of your Plastic Free Community to talk about the problems you face.

You could invite them to a beach clean, encouraging them to stop the plastic entering our environment further up the chain and calling for a Deposit Return Scheme

How you inform local politicians is up to you, but the message remains the same. We care, we are sick of the pollution in our local area and we want them to take action and support the delivery of Deposit Return Schemes across the UK.