The UK’s parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee has called for the introduction of a nation-wide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles as part of a bid to reduce plastic pollution in the country.
In a report published 22 Dec, the influential committee also called for an increase in the number of public water fountains and for making producers financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce.
Additionally, the committee urged the government to phase in a mandated 50% recycled plastic content in plastic bottles, to be achieved by 2023 at the latest.
“Urgent action is needed to protect our environment from the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution which, if it continues to rise at current rates, will outweigh fish by 2050,” said Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.
According to Creagh, the UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled.
“We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back the plastic tide,” she added.
The MP pointed that around 700,000 plastic bottles are littered in the UK every day, adding: “the introduction of a small charge to encourage the return of plastic bottles will result in less littering, more recycling and reduction in the impact of plastic packaging on our natural environment.”
Additionally, the committee urged the government to introduce a requirement for all public premises at which food or drink is served to provide free drinking water on request, including sports and leisure centres.
“It is unacceptable that there is no legal obligation for unlicensed cafes, restaurants and sports centres to provide free drinking water on request,” the MP said.
The UK, she went on to say, has safe, clean tap water and failing to provide it leads to unnecessary use of plastic water bottles which clog up our rivers and seas.
Additionally, the committee pointed out that packaging producers only pay for 10% of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for the remaining 90%.
The committee called on the government to adopt a producer responsibility compliance fee structure that rewarded design for recyclability and raises charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle.