WEEKEND WEB: Do we have the bottle to bring back deposits?

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CPRE chairman TIM MACHIN discusses recycling drinks bottles in RURAL MATTERS...

My attention was drawn last week to a couple of articles in the national media about the disposal of our domestic waste.

The first was a report in a national newspaper suggesting that Council Tax could rise because China had decided to ban the import of recycled plastic waste.

Apparently, two thirds of all our waste plastic is currently sent to the Far East for recycling, but that is coming to an end, meaning that disposal costs will go up and we will have to get rid of more of our own waste in the UK.

The second news item was on the BBC’s website and put some numbers to the amount of plastic rubbish that we produce. Since it was invented, some 8.3 billion tons have apparently been produced internationally.

Nearly four-fifths of that has gone into landfill or the natural environment (eg rivers, hedgerows and the oceans), with the remaining one-fifth being recycled or burned.

Some 480billion plastic bottles are made a year, that’s 63 for every man woman and child in the world. A million sold every minute, but less than half of those ever get recycled. What are you doing with yours?

A bottle in landfill will not biodegrade for 450 years according to the statistics, so once they are made, most will be around for generations.

There has got to be something we can do, other than just bury them in the ground and try to forget about them for half a millennia, even assuming that we have that many big holes that need filling!

The shopping public has been weaned off its plastic bag habit, saving some 61,000 tons of plastic waste a year in the UK alone and other countries are now following this lead. It’s time to start thinking about bottles and other plastic waste.

The CPRE is at the forefront of the national campaign to introduce a deposit scheme for plastic drink bottles.

Many other countries and states have deposit return schemes in place - Scotland has just announced one and Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, recently said the Government was looking seriously at the idea.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II last Sunday may have been the catalyst for faster change, with the Government now pledging to help tackle plastics waste in the oceans.

Part of that story must surely be to stop it getting there in the first place.

Local authorities have interestingly been an objector to the idea for a deposit scheme, as they say it would reduce the money they receive from recycled waste.

Research has shown, however, that they would make savings of around £35m a year and that - coupled with the Chinese Government effectively shutting the door on future exports of our rubbish - will hopefully sway opinion in favour of a recycling scheme.

As a lad, I made a few pence a week extra pocket money taking back the empties to the corner shop.

Maybe, in the near future, people will be picking up empty drinks bottles out of hedgerows rather than dropping them there.