Nine Out of Ten Scots Concerned About Ocean Plastic Pollution

Publication date: 11th November 2016

A poll by Survation shows that 90 per cent of people surveyed in Scotland have some concern about the amount of plastic litter in the ocean, compared to 77 per cent who have some concern about plastic litter in their neighbourhood. An overwhelming 93 per cent have some concern about the effect of plastic pollution on marine wildlife and birds.

The Greenpeace ship the Esperanza is in Scotland this week to launch a major campaign to reduce ocean plastic pollution and call for the introduction of a bottle deposit return scheme. Of those who expressed a view in the Survation poll, 78 per cent said they would support a deposit return system in Scotland.

In the UK, as many as 16 million plastic bottles go unrecycled every day. One year’s worth of the UK’s unrecycled bottles could stretch around the world more than 30 times. Beach surveys suggest that single-use plastic bottles make up a significant part of the 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste which is estimated to enter our oceans every year. A truckload of plastic rubbish goes into the sea every minute, and can take more than 450 years to degrade.

Big pieces of plastic, or macroplastics, are known to choke and entangle turtles and seabirds, Tiny pieces of plastic, or microplastics, which include microbeads, microfibres or larger pieces of plastic that have been broken up after years in the ocean, can clog the stomachs of species from zooplankton to oysters and fish. Filter feeding whales and manta rays ingest microplastics which they mistake for food. Scientific studies show that polyethylene or PET, often used to make bottles, accumulates persistent organic pollutants which cause harm to marine life.

Willie Mackenzie, an oceans expert with Greenpeace UK, said:

“It’s time for a sea change in our relationship with throwaway plastic. We’re currently discarding 12.7 million tonnes of plastic litter into the oceans every year. Drinks bottles that we use for minutes pollute our oceans for centuries, breaking down into tiny fragments that can kill marine life, disperse toxic chemicals and even end up in the seafood we eat.

Scotland was ahead of the curve on the plastic bag charge which cut bag use, and can lead on stemming the tide of plastic bottles entering our oceans too. Our poll shows that more than 90 per cent of Scots are worried about the amount of plastic litter in the ocean and the effect on marine wildlife and birds.

So Greenpeace is here in Edinburgh to launch a major campaign to end ocean plastic pollution. We’re asking MSPs to listen to the 78 per cent of Scots who expressed a view in our poll, and said they would support a deposit return system. We urge the Scottish government to live up to their election manifesto and introduce such a system in 2017.”

A deposit return system would both reduce the use of plastic and increase collection and recycling rates. In Europe approximately 150 million people already live with deposit return systems and they have been shown to increase bottle return rates to 98 per cent in Germany. It takes far less energy to reuse or recycle a bottle than it does to extract, refine and process virgin materials into new bottles, offering a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

There are economic benefits to deposit return systems, including new jobs in the container collection and processing sectors, reduced costs of kerbside recycling collection and litter cleaning for local authorities and businesses, and increased footfall for shops hosting reverse vending machines where people return bottles and reclaim their deposits.

87 per cent of those surveyed in Scotland said they have some concern about the amount of plastic packaging on products they buy, and 60 per cent said they are more likely to choose a product if the packaging does not include a high proportion of plastic over a similar product with a high proportion of plastic packaging.

With mounting public and political support for the creation of a deposit return system in Scotland, it can lead the way in dramatically reducing the amount of plastic bottles we currently waste, setting an example to the rest of the UK.


Notes to editor:

1. For the full data tables, see here:

2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a poll by Survation, prepared on behalf of Greenpeace UK. Total sample size was 1,029 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken 2-7 November 2016. The survey was conducted online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 16+).

3. The Survation poll found that 76% of all respondents said they would support the introduction of a deposit return system in Scotland (41.5% strongly support, 34.5% somewhat support). 3% answered ‘don’t know’. Excluding those who answered ‘don’t know’, 78% of respondents who specified if they would support or oppose a deposit return system, said they would support a deposit return scheme.

View and download a selection of images here:

For further details or queries please contact: Alexandra Sedgwick, Press Officer, Greenpeace UK., +44 (0)7773 043 386