Comment on UK proposals to tackle marine plastic pollution

Commenting on the announcement today from the UK Environment Audit Committee calling for a UK-wide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, a requirement to provide free drinking water in public premises and to make producers financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce, Derek Robertson CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful said:

“At a time when there is a ferocious public attitude for action to tackle the plastic pollution of our marine environment, as highlighted by the BBC Blue Planet II, we welcome any action to tackle the issue.  However, we know that 80% of marine litter comes from land, via aquatic pathways and blown by the wind.   And, we know that litter on land in Scotland is at its highest levels in a decade.  We therefore would welcome a joined-up approach to tackling litter on land and at sea, which collectively includes new policy and investment to change behaviour, not just short term high profile initiatives.

“Introducing a deposit return system for plastic bottles, will undoubtedly have a positive impact in reducing these visible items as litter and improve recycling rates, but, it will not be the silver bullet needed to deal with other litter types which detrimentally impacts our environment.  We have welcomed the commitment in Scotland to investigate design options for a deposit return scheme that would not be limited to plastic bottles, and could also capture other high value items including cans, coffee cups and cartons. 

“We don’t believe this proposal goes far enough.  It fails to address our unsustainable consumption of single use items, and doesn’t tackle the much-needed reduction of the broad range of items in the waste stream.

"We welcome making drinking water more available again and believe this will make a significant impact in reducing the huge number of single use drinks containers we buy, consume and dispose of.  And, we encourage Scottish local authorities and businesses to consider how they can make drinking water more easily available to people such as encouraging the use of reusable drinks containers to support consumer behaviour change.

“We understand that packaging producers have a role to play, and that a levy on items can incentivise behaviour change, however, industry also has a role to play in ensuring they design products and systems which reduce the risk of littering and that increase recycling rates.   They also have a role to support so far chronically underfunded communication and education activity aimed at changing people’s behaviour. Perhaps a revision of the existing PRN system will provide the necessary impetus and resources required.”

23 December 2017

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