Government accused of ‘dragging its feet’ over plastic bottle deposit scheme

26th February 2018

Web plasticbottles istock 171345195

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Central government ,
  • Waste ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Politics & Economics ,
  • Recycling


Colin Fisher

The UK government has been accused of failing to recognise the urgency of tackling plastic pollution after giving no firm commitments on a deposit return scheme for beverage containers.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) had recommended such a scheme be introduced late last year in order to help improve the country’s floundering recycling rates for plastic bottles.

However, the government responded today by saying that introducing a bottle deposit return scheme could be delayed until after a consultation on a tax on single-use plastics.

This consultation was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in his autumn budget last November when he said he wanted to tackle the “scourge of plastic littering our planet”, but has failed to materialise three months on.

“The government is dragging its feet on introducing a deposit return scheme,” EAC chair, Mary Creagh, said. “Every day it delays, another 700,000 plastic bottles end up in our streets.

“A UK-wide deposit return scheme is a crucial next step to turn back the plastic tide. The government needs to take decisive action on this important issue instead of kicking it into the long grass.”

The EAC found that the UK uses 7.7 billion plastic water bottles each year, and that a deposit scheme could increase recycling rates for beverage containers from 57% to around 80-90%.

It also previously found that providing more free drinking water taps and fountains in public spaces could lead to a 65% reduction in the use of plastic water bottles.

Defra and WaterUK have since announced they will create a network of water refill points across England by 2021 in the hope of cutting plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year.

However, the EAC said it had received no evidence that WaterUK was doing this, and that there are currently no plans to ensure food and drink retailers provide free water.

In addition, the government has not adopted the committee’s recommendation of introducing a compliance fee structure that rewards product design for recyclability and raises charges on packaging difficult to recycle.

“This sounds like the government trying to manage expectations before doing significantly less than is necessary – we hope this isn’t the case,” Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner, Elena Polisano, said.

“They can waste their time and ours trying to delay things until we’ve all forgotten about plastic, but we won’t forget, and we won’t forget a government U-turn on dealing with it.”

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

A hangover from EU legislation, requirements on the need for consideration of nutrient neutrality for developments on many protected sites in England were nearly removed from the planning system in 2023.

2nd April 2024

Read more

It’s well recognised that the public sector has the opportunity to work towards a national net-zero landscape that goes well beyond improving on its own performance; it can also influence through procurement and can direct through policy.

19th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close