Bottle on Beach

Environment Bill delayed: Deposit Return Scheme put on the back burner

Date posted: 26 January 2021

The government’s flagship Environment Bill will be delayed by at least six months, marking its third delay since 2018, and putting a new system for laws and ambitious targets for nature on hold.

Beached bottle
© Nicola Greaves

The Environment Bill is a really important piece of legislation that is needed to support nature’s recovery. The Bill has been delayed three times since 2018.

Dr Laura Foster,
Head of Clean Seas

With the UK gearing up for an important year in climate and nature - with the UN’s Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in May and hosting the COP26 annual climate change summit in November - the further delay of the Environment Bill isn’t a good look.

This news has a knock-on effect on the introduction of England’s own Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which is one of the vital provisions of the Bill.

Dr. Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

‘The Environment Bill is a really important piece of legislation that is needed to support nature’s recovery. The Bill has been delayed three times since 2018. It was three years ago when the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said “It is absolutely vital we act now.” If it was urgent then, it is even more so now - we cannot afford further delays.’

DRS is a simple system where you pay a small deposit for your drinks can or bottle and when finished you can simply return it and get your money back. It helps the drive towards a more circular economy where materials are not lost from the system but used again and again, reducing littering overall. Scotland has passed legislation which means from July 2022 drinks containers will have a 20p deposit. In England, although repeated commitments from the governments to introduce a DRS have been made, it has been continually delayed.

We want schemes which cover all materials and all sizes, like the scheme due to start in Scotland which covers plastic and glass bottles and metal cans. We want to minimise any differences to the scheme already introduced in Scotland for ease of the consumer and to ensure the highest success of reducing littered bottles and cans in our ocean.

The government has promised to ‘continue at pace’ to implement the Bill’s measures despite the delay, and we will be holding them to account on this. We need the government to step up and take bold action to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and the implementation of an all-inclusive Deposit Return Scheme is a vital part of the solution.

What can you do?

Actions you can take

  1. See our map of reported bottle sightings
  2. Learn about Deposit Return Systems
  3. Report your #wildbottlesighting using our form
  4. Survey showing public support
  5. Join the Plastic Challenge
  6. Take your own reusable bottle out and about

Did you know?…

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