MCS urges supermarkets to back DRS

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Photo: Catherine Gemmell - MCS

Retailers urged not to make excuses to avoid ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme for drinks bottles and cans in Wales 

Marine Conservation Society warns that falling short of an “all-in” system for Wales will harm our oceans.

The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), has written an open letter to CEO’s of ten leading supermarkets urging them to support a comprehensive ‘all in’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks bottles and cans by responding to a Defra consultation on the issue.

This consultation is being undertaken jointly by the Welsh and UK Governments.

Wales is the world’s third-best recycling nation, but, says Gill Bell, MCS Head of Conservation in Wales, the country needs to move away from being a throwaway society to a circular economy: “We believe putting a value on items like glass and plastic bottles and cans will lead to behaviour change. We need a deposit return scheme in Wales which will increase recycling rates, reduce beach litter and help meet our well-being goal of being a globally responsible Wales.

People in Wales are being urged to take part in the consultation which runs until May 13th.

MCS says businesses must back the introduction of a money-back recycling system for consumers that includes all sizes and materials of containers, that is run as a not-for-profit system and is consistent across all parts of the United Kingdom.

Some sections of industry have suggested introducing an “on the go” scheme, which would only include the smallest bottles and containers. In other countries, where this has been tried, retailers and manufacturers simply switched sizes or material to get around the rules.

In her letter, the charity’s CEO, Sandy Luk, says some companies seem intent on changing or delaying the introduction of a comprehensive scheme: “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.

The charity says anything less than an ‘all-in’ system will fail to produce the environmental outcomes we need to see, which is less litter and plastic poisoning marine wildlife and polluting our waterways, seas and oceans.

Deposit return schemes are already working well elsewhere. The UK currently recycles just 57% of drinks containers, whilst neighbouring European countries with systems already in place typically have recycling rates over 90%.

Sandy Luk told the CEO’s of the UK’s leading supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, Co-op, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Iceland – that: “Delaying the introduction of a comprehensive scheme will place more of a stranglehold on the environment, and effectively sentence of our marine wildlife to an early death. Businesses must not shirk their responsibilities to their customers by propagating the plastic tide for their own benefit. Shoppers will never forgive business for doing so.”

MCS has launched its #BottlesforChange campaign to encourage the public to take part in the consultation which is backed by BBC2’s Dragon’s Den star and MCS Ocean Ambassador, Deborah Meaden, who says: “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 – to support a money-back recycling scheme for drinks cans and bottles of all sizes and materials throughout the UK. There are so many benefits this would bring to businesses large and small – increased footfall, reduction in litter and increased revenue are just a few. Let’s get behind the Marine Conservation Society’s vision for an all-in deposit return scheme.”

Defra’s DRS consultation covers Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Scotland has already held a consultation and the indications are that the Scottish Government is likely to take the environmentally ambitious option of a comprehensive system.

The Welsh Government says it will consider the responses and undertake further impact assessment work, before deciding on whether and how to implement a DRS in Wales.

The Marine Conservation Society is urging members of the public to take part in the UK Government’s consultation before it closes on May 13th, via a pre-filled form on their BottlesforChange.uk website – it takes just two minutes.

Gill Bell added: ‘We need Welsh Government to be bold and support an ‘all-in’ approach. Concerns have been raised about local authorities losing the money they generate from kerbside collection if a DRS scheme was set up in Wales. Not only has this been proven not to be the case in other countries but it cannot be justified as a reason not to adopt an all-inclusive system. There will be so many other benefits, including less littering, which of course reduces the number of bottles reaching our oceans but also cuts down on street cleaning costs.”

For more information about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

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