The UK should pay people who return their drink bottles and make tap water more freely available to curb the mountains of plastic waste that find their way into the oceans, members of Parliament said in a report.
A nationwide return-and-reward program for plastic bottles could increase the UK’s bottle recycling rate to 90%, according to the House of Commons’s Environmental Audit Committee.
A little more than half the 13 billion plastic bottles used in Britain each year are recycled, with the rest sent to landfill, burned or left to litter streets.
A bottle deposit program plan has already been suggested by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who has made tackling plastic pollution a priority since taking up the role earlier this year. It would help reduce plastic in seas, which harms marine life.
A deposit return program would encourage people to return their bottles and the proceeds should be used to build plastic reprocessing facilities, the panel said.
“Urgent action is needed to protect our environment from the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution which, if it continues to rise at current rates, will outweigh fish by 2050,” said Mary Creagh, chair of the committee.
The lawmakers also recommend that Government require a minimum use of 50% recycled polyethylene terephthalate in new plastic bottles by 2023, and make plastic bottle makers financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce by increasing fees on packaging that is difficult to recycle and reducing it for easily recyclable plastic
“A lot of single-use plastic items provide more cost than benefit, but currently the manufacturers only see the benefits. Once the manufacturers are given responsibility for the costs as well, the system should quickly become a lot more efficient,” said Will McCallum, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK.
The EAC also said mandating greater availability of drinking water in shops, cafes and public spaces would reduce the 7.7 billion plastic water bottles used in Britain each year by 65%
“The UK has safe, clean tap water and failing to provide it leads to unnecessary use of plastic water bottles which clog up our rivers and seas,” said Creagh.