This week we heard that the UK government is considering adopting a plastic bottle scheme, similar to one used in Norway. The scheme would see people who return their plastic bottles refunded the equivalent of 10p to 25p, depending on the size.
In Norway the scheme is responsible for recycling 97% of bottles in the country and has massively reduced plastic litter in the environment and seas. Experts claim that local authorities could save up to £35 million ever year, if the deposit return scheme were to be introduced. A report based on the data from eight local councils with varying recycling rates found that councils could make savings of between £60,000 and £500,000 each, due to reduced littering and landfill charges. But some local councils have expressed concerns that a deposit return scheme would lose them money, by undercutting their income stream from kerbside collections. Nonetheless, there is a clear problem with plastic waste in the UK and greater incentives to recycle plastic are needed. Only 57% plastic bottles get recycled in the UK, compared to Germany and Denmark which both have deposit return schemes and see more than 90% of plastic bottles returned. Plastic pollution also affects UK oceans, with a third of the fish caught in UK waters, including cod, haddock and mackerel, found to contain plastic. Figures from 2016 show that one million plastic bottles were bought a minute around the world, and this number is expected to increase by 20% by 2021. Of this number, fewer than half were recycled and just 7% were turned into new bottles – while most ended up in landfill or in the ocean. With the plastic problem now receiving increasing amounts of media attention, it looks likely that we will see increasing efforts from the government to tackle the issue.