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Michael Gove, Don’t Lose Your Bottle

Posted by John Sauven - 7th March 2019

In the UK every year we go through around 14 billion plastic bottles, of all shapes and sizes. Most of us do our best to reuse, for example by refilling water bottles again and again; and to recycle, either at home or by getting rid of our bottles in a street bin.

But sadly, for plastic bottles, the recycling system isn’t working. In the UK only 59% of plastic bottles are collected for recycling, with many ending up polluting our streets, rivers and beaches. And worse still, many of the bottles we put in our recycling bins end up going to landfill or incineration, because they’re contaminated by other waste. European figures suggest that only around 37% of bottles are actually recycled.

That simply isn’t good enough if we’re going to stop these bottles polluting our wildlife, rivers and oceans. And the government knows this. So the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is considering bringing in a deposit return scheme – where a small charge of around 15p would be added to the cost of buying drinks containers, which customers would get back when they recycle them. This is a fantastic opportunity to boost our recycling rates. Countries that already have schemes like this achieve recycling rates of around 95%.

The problem is – not everyone agrees. Industry trade bodies like the British Retail Consortium are lobbying for a watered down scheme which would exclude certain sizes and materials of drinks containers. If they get their way, at least six billion plastic bottles would be excluded from the deposit return scheme. That is clearly not acceptable. So this week, our determined Greenpeace volunteers delivered a 29ft-long plastic bottle artwork to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, with a clear message to him: Don’t lose your bottle. We need an all-inclusive deposit return scheme that covers all sizes and materials.

Our enormous sculpture, made by artist Lulu Quinn from 2,500 littered plastic bottles, caused quite a spectacle and prompted many a smile from passers-by. What we need now is for as many people as possible to add their voice to ours, and tell Mr Gove just how vital it is that we choose an all-in scheme. The government launched a consultation last week, asking members of the public for their views on the deposit return scheme. I urge everyone to have their say and tell Mr Gove: don’t lose your bottle. Don’t bow to pressure from industry. Deliver an all-inclusive bottle scheme that tackles plastic pollution and protects our oceans.

Make sure Michael Gove doesn’t lose his bottle – have your say:

Article Tagged as: Featured, Oceans, Plastics, Politics

About John Sauven

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Executive director of Greenpeace UK.