The RYA and The Green Blue have welcomed the news that a Bottle Deposit Scheme will be introduced in England in a bid to reduce the amount of single use waste reaching our seas.

A deposit return scheme for single-use bottles is going to be introduced in England subject to consultation, the Government has confirmed.

Plastic, glass and metal containers would be included in the scheme with a goal of increasing recycling rates and slashing the amount of waste polluting the planet.

Collaborative effort

Earlier this month, on behalf of a coalition of water-based organisations including the RYA, marine environment charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) wrote to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for the urgent introduction of the scheme.

A consultation held later this year will examine the details of how such a scheme would work, but it is likely to be in place by the end of this Parliament.

UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill sites or left to pollute the country's streets, countryside and seas.

Environmental impact

Plastic impacts on entire ecosystems and marine life gets caught up in it, eats it and lives in it. It also has a direct impact on our health, acting as a sponge for toxins which can end up in our food. Plastic is cheap and incredibly versatile with properties that make it ideal for many applications. However, these qualities have also resulted in it becoming an environmental issue.

We have developed a 'disposable' lifestyle and it's estimated that around 50% of plastic is used once, then thrown away. There's no doubt that plastic pollution in the ocean is a growing global crisis and campaigns such as Sky Ocean Rescue, eXXpedition (the team that sailed around the British Isles sampling the waters for plastics and toxins), and the BBC series Blue Planet II have all recently highlighted the scale of the issue.

"We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment - killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats," the Environment Secretary Michael Gove said.

"It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled," he added.

Some parts of the UK have already been considering a deposit scheme. Wales said it would consider such a scheme back in September last year, shortly after Scotland committed to the idea of a deposit return scheme.

The Government says it hopes "to talk to the devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this important issue".

Similar deposit return schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

How it works

A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an upfront deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on the return of the empty drink container.

Other types of schemes being considered by the UK include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without enforcing an upfront deposit.

This could be done through a network of 'reverse vending machines' where money is returned whenever a plastic or glass bottle is inserted.

Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled - a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.

The announcement follows the Government's ban on plastic microbeads and the introduction of a 5p plastic bag charge. Next month, Commonwealth members will gather in London to agree measures to further protect the world's oceans.

The Green Blue

Kate Fortnam, Campaign Manager for The Green Blue (the RYA and British Marine's joint environmental campaign) says: "Awareness of environmental issues such as plastic pollution has undoubtedly increased in recent years, but there's much more work to be done to protect the future sustainability of our marine ecosystem.

"The plastic waste tide we are faced with is not only obvious for us as boaters to clearly see washed up on shore or whilst at sea. Most disconcertingly, the overwhelming amount of marine plastic debris is beyond visual, made of microscopic range fragmented plastic debris that cannot be just scooped out of the ocean.

"By working towards an environmentally self-regulating boating community, The Green Blue campaign aims to help boaters minimise the impact they have on the environment and safeguard the waters and habitats we enjoy and rely on for the future." 

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