Environment Secretary says he supports fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme.

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 17 July 2019

The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has said he supports an all inclusive money-back recycling system for drinks bottles and cans.

Bottles recycled
© Recycle Harmony

A fully inclusive scheme, which includes glass, will encourage more recycling and will mean less litter polluting our oceans, harming wildlife and littering our beaches

Chris Tuckett,
MCS Director of Programmes

In a speech at Kew Gardens, Mr Gove said he personally backed an ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme(DRS) which included plastic, glass, cans and cartons of all sizes.

MCS says it welcomes the Environment Secretary’s public support but says it’s time for urgent action not warm words from the government.

Chris Tuckett, Director of Programmes at MCS, who attended the speech, said:”Michael Gove’s support for a fully inclusive money-back recycling system is, on the face of it, good news for the environment. But rather than warm words, what we need to see is urgent government action – and a system introduced as quickly as possible which is compatible across the UK.”

MCS has led calls for a money-back recycling system for consumers that includes all sizes and materials of containers, that is run as a not-for-profit system and is consistent across all parts of the United Kingdom.

Chris Tuckett added: “We will wait to see legislation put in place, but if Mr Gove’s pronouncements turn to action, this is a move which our supporters demanded from the government and they will welcome with open arms. A fully inclusive scheme, which includes glass, will encourage more recycling and will mean less litter polluting our oceans, harming wildlife and littering our beaches.”

More than 25,000 people called for an all-inclusive DRS by responding to Defra’s consultation via the MCS #BottlesforChange campaign website.

But lobbyists for industry have worked hard behind the scenes to put pressure on the Environment Secretary to introduce a system that doesn’t include glass.

Earlier this year MCS’s CEO, Sandy Luk, wrote to Mr Gove and CEOs of leading UK high street retailers urging them to support a comprehensive ‘all in’ DRS for drinks bottles and cans.

She accused some companies and manufacturers of trying to thwart the introduction of a comprehensive scheme, writing: “It is highly regrettable that some elements in UK industry, with vested interests, seem intent on making up as many excuses as possible to resist a scheme which will remove and recycle the largest numbers of containers. Lobbying behind the scenes must not be allowed to derail the most ambitious and comprehensive scheme from being introduced.”

Luk said those engaging in such tactics appeared to be putting profits before vital environmental credentials.

Deposit return schemes are already working well elsewhere. The UK currently recycles just 57% of drinks containers, whilst other European countries with systems already in place typically have recycling rates over 90%.

In May, after a campaign by Have You Got the Bottle? in which MCS was a leading partner, the Scottish Government announced it would be implementing a deposit return scheme that will include PET plastic, metal and glass with a 20p deposit and scope to include further materials in future.

During last year’s MCS-run Great British Beach Clean, volunteer beach cleaners found an average of 16 littered drinks containers per 100 metres of UK beaches surveyed, and on one beach alone picked up 72 containers along the same length.

Actions you can take

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

Did you know?…

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