Two supermarkets back bottle deposit refund scheme and urge others to 'do the right thing'

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 30 November 2017

On the day MCS reveals a 10% rise in beach litter around English, Welsh and Scottish coasts, Iceland and the Co-op have come out in favour of bottle refund schemes (DRS) to help tackle ocean plastic pollution.

Beached bottle
© Nicola Greaves

We would urge the other retailers to actually look at the evidence of other countries such as Norway and come out in favour of a DRS as well.

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

MCS has been calling for a deposit refund scheme for bottles and cans for some time, along with other environmental organisations including Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace and Surfers Against Sewage.

Bottle refund schemes work when customers pay a small deposit when they buy a bottle or can and get it back in full when they return the item to a collection point. In Scotland, MCS has been working as part of the Have You Got the Bottle coalition and succeeded in persuading the Scottish Government to implement a scheme – a first for the home nations.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer says it’s fantastic news that the Coop and Iceland are supporting deposit refund systems. “We know from around the world that such schemes increase high quality recycling and decrease littering. They also save local authorities money and can be cost neutral for retailers and are very popular with the public.

“As our results show the litter on our beaches is not decreasing and much of it is made up of cans and bottles. There is no silver bullet that is going to solve all our litter problems at once, the only way we are going to see a decrease in litter is by instigating a suite of solutions that each tackle the different types of litter.

“We would urge the other retailers to actually look at the evidence of other countries such as Norway and come out in favour of a DRS as well.”

Greenpeace, who conducted the survey of supermarkets’ views on DRS, said other national outlets surveyed were non-committal or expressed reservations about a deposit refund scheme.

Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge said: “Iceland and Co-op have shown some vision and set the standard, now it’s time for other companies to follow suit and start publicly backing deposit return schemes.”

Richard Walker, director for sustainability at Iceland Foods, said Britain was failing to recycle up to 16 million single use plastic bottles every day.

“This cannot carry on,” he said. “It is causing untold damage to our oceans and wildlife. It is also a ticking time bomb for humanity, since we all ultimately depend on a healthy ocean environment for our own survival.”

He said deposit return schemes worked, and Britain needed to follow the lead of other countries.

“Introducing a deposit return scheme may well add to our costs of doing business,” he said. “However, we believe it is a small price to pay for the long-term sustainability of this planet. I urge all other retailers to do the right thing and follow suit.”

Jo Whitfield, retail chief executive, Co-op, said the company was in favour of creating a deposit return scheme which increased overall recycling of packaging, reduced litter and helped marine pollution.

“We are committed to ensuring all of our own packaging will be recyclable and we are firm supporters of initiatives designed to boost recycling levels,” she said. “We look forward to working with others, including government, local authorities, manufacturers and other retailers, to help design a scheme that delivers in all these areas.”

The support for DRS from Iceland and the Co-op comes just days after the Natural History Museum said it will end the sale of single-use plastic water bottles at its sites to help “reduce the deluge of plastic into our seas.”

Facilities at the museum’s sites at South Kensington, London, and Tring, Hertfordshire, will be assessed to ensure there are alternatives including water fountains and reusable bottles, as well as looking at ways to encourage visitors to bring their own bottles.

Professor Ian Owens, director of science at the Museum, said: “It’s vital that scientific institutions like the Museum lead the way in the fight to understand and protect the natural world.”

Actions you can take

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

Did you know?…

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

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