The government is set to introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal), subject to consultation later this year.
UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to sully streets, countryside and the marine environment.
The consultation will look at the details of how a deposit return scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.
The government hopes to talk to devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this issue.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats. It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.”
This week’s announcement is the latest move in the government crackdown on plastic, following the plastic microbeads ban and the 5p plastic bag charge. It sits alongside the 25 year environment plan commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
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The consultation will take into account views from producers, suppliers and consumers to ensure that any system introduced works across the country.
It will sit alongside a package of wider reforms of the current packaging waste system, which will incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and to increase the amount of packaging they recycle.
Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container.
Possible variants of a deposit return scheme include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without an upfront deposit, according to the Gov.UK website. Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.