The Evidence is Clear – We Need a UK-Wide Deposit Return Scheme
Watching the latest episode of Blue Planet II, it was mesmerising to discover the secret world of the deep sea. From the the cute flapjack octopus search the seabed looking for worms to the sea toad who walk instead of swim, our seabeds are full of wonderful and rare sea creatures. But in the UK, there is a new and very unwelcome visitor threatening this environment.
Last week, Defra released their England Natural Environmental Indicators data report for 2016. The report included the latest figures on marine litter on seabeds around England. Instead of reporting a decrease in litter as was the case for the past three years, it was found that marine litter had actually increased. In 2016, 358 litter items were found per square kilometre of seabed. That is a 158% increase from last year! And the most commonly found items were plastic which made up 78% of the items found.
With up to 12 million tonnes of plastic entering our environment every year, this report is further proof of the threat plastic poses to our oceans. Once plastic enters the ocean it becomes a hazard for animals. They can become entangled in the plastic or mistake it for food and eat it. Larger plastics then break down over time into microplastics which have been found in everything from our sea salt, to our drinking water and in the seafood that we eat. We must do more to end ocean plastics and that involves individual, industry and government action.
As individuals we can all work to reduce our plastic footprint. We can swap our single use water bottles and coffee cups for reusable ones. We can refuse straws when we order drinks at restaurants. We can bring our own bags when we shopping. We can also try to purchase food at grocery shops that are not wrapped in plastic if we have the choice. Finally you can take our plastic pledge for find more ways you can reduce your plastic footprint.
Corporations that produce single use plastic bottles – one of most commonly found plastic item on beach cleans and the ocean’s surface – must do more to reduce their plastic footprint. This is why we’re calling on Coca-Cola who produce over 110 single use plastic bottles to reduce their plastic footprint. This can be achieved by using more recycled plastic in the production of their bottles or by looking at different ways to deliver their product like using smart fountains.
But we need government action on this issue which is why a UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS) is important. These schemes involved paying a little more for a plastic bottle when you first purchase it and then getting the money back when the bottle is returned. About 150 million people use DRS worldwide from Germany to Australia to Sweden. The schemes have been credited with increased plastic bottle collection of up to 94% in some cases. With up to 16 million plastic bottles ending up in our environment every day and plastic bottle usage set to double in the coming years, it is clear that we need more action on plastic bottles.
Scotland is leading the way and are working hard to introduce a Scottish DRS scheme after 25,000 of you called on them to act. The UK government is currently taking evidence on the possibility of having a DRS scheme in England. We need to show them that their is public support for a UK-wide DRS. If you haven’t already, sign our petition and share with friends and family so we can work together to end ocean plastics.
About Tisha Brown
I am a campaigner on the oceans team.