Environmental Audit Committee supports SAS calls for a plastic bottle deposit system!

We welcome the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report ‘Plastic bottles Turning Back the Plastic Tide’ laying out the findings and recommendations from their inquiry into plastic bottle pollution in our oceans and wider environment.

The EAC responded to the evidence presented by various cross-sectorial experts. We are delighted that their findings have concluded with a recommendation that the ‘Government introduces a legislated Deposit Return Scheme for all PET plastic drinks bottles.’ This is a fantastic result for our campaign! We are another huge step forward  towards a UK-wide deposit return system! This provides a very powerful precursor as the Government prepares to assess the same evidence on deposit return systems as part of the National Litter Strategy – Voluntary & Economic Incentives Working  Group.

The key recommendation from the report is as follows:

“We recommend that the Government introduces a legislated Deposit Return Scheme for all PET plastic drinks bottles. The upcoming Waste Strategy should also examine whether to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for other beverage containers, such as aluminium cans, to foster a culture of recycling packaging used on-the-go. It is vital that a Deposit Return Scheme is well-designed. It should be created after a consultation with stakeholders such as manufacturers, retailers and local authorities. Consultation should build upon the working group already in place and examine the innovations suggested to improve the functioning of a Deposit Return Scheme, such as local authority collaboration and retailer partnerships. We particularly encourage collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland, who are responsible for planning Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. Based on research, the scheme should place a 10 – 20p deposit on top of the price of product that will be refunded to the consumer upon return of the bottle or can. We believe a Deposit Return Scheme will create a source of good quality recycled plastic for manufacturers, therefore ensuring that fewer plastic bottles are incinerated, landfilled or littered in land or at sea.”

In the UK we use a staggering 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles every day. Only half of these are recycled, so it’s no surprise that many of these end up on our beaches and in our oceans. Plastic bottles are in fact one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution in our oceans. Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down, killing marine life, harming the coastal ecosystem and ruining our beaches.

(c) Paul Quayle.


Placing a small deposit on plastic bottles and cans would dramatically increase recycling and reduce marine plastic pollution. We have been campaigning strongly from the beach front to Westminster, calling for a well-designed deposit return system to be introduced in the UK to drive a dramatic increase in the UK recycling rate for plastic bottles. Currently in England, kerbside collection rates have stagnated at 57% and have failed to keep pace with the rapid expansion of the on-the-go consumer habits to collect plastic bottles used when people are on the move.

The EAC report states:“We have heard that Deposit Return Schemes for plastic bottles and cans achieve very high recycling rates. They help to facilitate a circular economy, as well as cutting down on the third most common litter type in the UK. A Deposit Return Scheme presents the opportunity to create a cohesive recycling mechanism for plastic bottles and other beverage containers throughout the UK. This could help boost the current stalling rate from 57% to around 80 – 90%.”

As part of the EAC inquiry, we presented oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry and submitted written evidence to support the opportunity and need for a deposit return system on plastic bottles. The public support for such a system is also overwhelming, with 73% of people recently surveyed supporting the introduction of a deposit return system. We spearheaded our campaign with our 38 Degrees petition ‘Bring back bottle deposits to stop plastic pollution in our oceans.’, which has secured almost 320,000 signatures of support and was delivered to 10 Downing Street as part of the campaign.

Thank you to all our collaborators, petition supporters, Regional Reps and activists in getting us this far! Let’s make 2018 the year deposit returns become a reality and we turn the tide of plastic pollution on our beaches and in our oceans.

If you’d like to take action on plastic pollution with us, please visit www.plasticfree.org.uk