On Monday 2 October, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a four-week call for views on how a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic drinks bottles might work in England. The government's working group on the issue will also consider similar schemes for glass and metal containers.
Mr Gove said., “We must protect our oceans and marine life from plastic waste if we are to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it."
Mr Gove noted the success that the 5p charge on single-use carrier bags has had in England, Scotland and Wales and felt that a DRS could be a significant step in addressing the problems posed by plastic drink containers. Under a DRS, a small deposit is paid when a plastic bottle is bought, which is returned when the empty bottle is brought back. Similar schemes already operate in at leastr a dozen countries.
With almost a plastic million bottles being made globally every minute, the growing mountain of plastic waste is an ever-growing problem. Over eight million tonnes of plastic is deposited in the world's oceans each year.
Plastic doesn't biodegrade (rot naturally in the environment). Plastic bottles that are buried underground can stay intact, possibly for thousands of years. Plastic does break into smaller pieces if exposed to sunlight for long periods, but it's thought a plastic bottle floating in the world's oceans would still take around 450 years to break down, and whilst the plastic fragments get smaller and smaller over time, they never fully disappear. There are an estimated 5.25 trillion plastic fragments floating the the world's oceans today.
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Photo by Ricardo Bernardo.