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Do Not Derail DRS, Says Marine Conservation Society

plastic bottles beach

Plastic bottles are one of the main sources of pollution found on the UK's beaches (Photo: Larina Marina/Shutterstock)

The head of the UK's Marine Conservation Society (MCS), has written an open letter to the CEOs of the UK's top ten supermarkets urging them to support a comprehensive ‘all in’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks bottles and cans.

According to a press release from the MCS, industry lobbyists have been putting pressure on Environment Secretary Michael Gove to introduce an 'on the go' recycling scheme, which would only include the smallest bottles and containers. MCS says retailers must back the introduction of a money-back recycling programme that would include all sizes of container. The scheme should also be run as a not-for-profit system that is consistent across all parts of the United Kingdom.

In her letter, the charity’s CEO, Sandy Luk, says: '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 says that those engaging in such tactics appear to be putting profits before vital environmental considerations, and is urging the CEOs of the UK’s leading supermarket chains to condemn those lobbying against the comprehensive scheme. 'Supermarkets and other retailers do not want, in years to come, to be compared to the tobacco industry which spent millions trying to hide the dangers of cigarettes to our health,' writes Luk, 'or the fossil fuel industry for its continued production of non-sustainable energy sources and advancing climate change.' 

'Delaying the introduction of a comprehensive scheme will place a stranglehold on the environment, and effectively sentence much of our marine wildlife to an early death,' she added. 'Retailers must not shirk their responsibilities to their customers by propagating the plastic tide for their own benefit. Shoppers will never forgive businesses for doing so.'

bottle recycle

A bottle deposit return and refund bank in New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Bidgee/Wikimedia creative commons)

Supermarkets received the letter as MCS launches its #BottlesforChange campaign, backed by BBC2’s Dragon’s Den star and MCS Ocean Ambassador, Deborah Meaden. 'Over 20 billion bottles and cans end up buried, burned or in the environment each year in the UK. This has to end. I’m supporting the #BottlesForChange campaign and urge businesses and industry to act now,' said Meaden. 'Let’s get behind the Marine Conservation Society’s vision for an all-in deposit-return scheme.'

The UK currently recycles 57 per cent of its drinks containers, whereas countries with DRS in place have recycling rates above 90 per cent, according to the MCS. The #BottlesforChange campaign is urging the public to take part in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation in order to get the best possible system for the UK. A consultation already held in Scotland has indicated that the Scottish Government is likely to introduce a comprehensive DRS.

The campaign, #BottlesforChange,  urges the public to take part in Defra’s DRS consultation to get the best possible system for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, compatible with that for Scotland. Scotland has already held a consultation and indications are that the Scottish Government is likely to take the environmentally ambitious option of a comprehensive system.   

MCS says that the reaction from industry to a comprehensive UK-wide DRS is similar to initial reactions from industry to the plastic bag levy. Despite initial reluctance, the 5p plastic charge has reduced the number of plastic bags found on the UK's beaches by as much as 47 per cent. 

The UK government's consultation closes on 13 May. Members of the public can show their support by completing a short, pre-filled form on the MCS #BottlesforChange.uk website. The original government consultation can be found in full on the Defra website.

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