Taking a deposit return machine to the heart of Westminster

Jack O'Donovan By: Jack O'Donovan
Date posted: 16 May 2018

MCS took a deposit return machine to Parliament today as part of an MP Drop-In Session to address plastic pollution.

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© Jack Daniel Trá

We need the Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans as soon as possible.

Emma Crane,
Public Affairs Manager
Marine Conservation Society

The event was organised with Alex Chalk MP following various Government commitments to tackling the impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment, with a current treasury consultation on levies on plastic coming to a close shortly, and others in the planning.

We highlighted our support for levies on single-use plastic items. We handed MPs packs containing alternatives to plastic straws, plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups. The packs also contained resources that will identify a wide range of initiatives which can be introduced in businesses, councils and communities to reduce plastic pollution.

Emma Crane, Public Affairs Manager at MCS said: “We arranged for a state-of-the-art deposit return machine to be brought to Parliament because we need the Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans as soon as possible, so that more bottles and cans can be recycled.

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Alex Chalk MP said: “A variety of “bottle-eating” deposit machines are already in service around the world. I’m delighted that the Marine Conservation Society has brought one to Westminster. We want to show Ministers and MPs just how simple and effective they can be. UK consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year. More than three billion are simply thrown away. So a bottle deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates has to be the way forward.”

The event has been timed to encourage MPs to respond to the Government’s consultation on single use plastics which closes on 18 May. It will also encourage MPs to engage with their local businesses and public organisations to reduce their single use plastic use.

MCS reports the data on the litter we find on our volunteer beach cleans to the government department Defra, and we are seeing levels of plastic litter rise around the UK. A shocking 70% of all litter found on our beaches is plastic. Emma Crane said: “We’ve had a big increase in the number of people getting involved in our beach cleans and signing up to our #StopthePlasticTide campaign - it’s an issue that the public really care about. It’s great to be have this event with Alex Chalk right now, and we hope that many MPs will join us in making positive changes that will protect our marine environment”.


Alex Chalk continued: “Single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds have a significant impact on our environment. 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK. They end up in landfill, or in rivers and ultimately the sea, where they will take up to 500 years to break down”.

We were delighted to host a bustling session of concerned MPs eager to try the deposit return machine, with plastic pollution issues, solutions and suggestions of actions to be taken flying around the room. We hope to see the MPs taking their thoughts forward into their constituencies and becoming activators for a reduction in plastic pollution in our oceans and across the UK.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said on reviewing the deposit return machine: “couldn’t be simpler”.

A big thank you to all who attended, we’re looking forward to seeing you all play your part to #STOPthePlasticTide.

The UK government are currently asking the public their opinion on using the tax system or charges to reduce single-use plastic waste. Let the government know that you have had enough of single-use plastic before Friday 18th May at 23:59.

Actions you can take

  1. Help stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019

Did you know?…

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

70% of the oxygen in the air we breathe comes from the ocean