A UK-WIDE scheme to charge a deposit for drinks bottles, which is paid back when they are returned for recycling, is needed to turn the tide on plastic waste, MPs urged.

The Scottish Government has already pledged to introduce a deposit-and-return system, with customers paying a small premium for bottles which would be redeemed by returning empties,

But MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster have called for a UK-wide policy as it outlined a series of measures which could reduce landfill.

Loading article content

It said that all public premises which serve food or drink including leisure and sports centres should be required to provide free drinking water on request, to cut the use of throwaway water bottles, and public water fountains should be encouraged.

And companies should be made financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce, the MPs said.

The UK Government should also bring in rules for 50 per cent recycled plastic content in plastic bottles to be achieved by 2023 at the latest, they urged.

In a new report, the committee warned that only 7.5 billion of the 13 billion plastic bottles used in the UK each year are recycled, while the rest end up in landfill, are littered or incinerated.

Burning or throwing bottles into landfill produces around 233,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, while littered plastic bottles harm the countryside and wildlife and end up in the seas where they make up a third of all plastic pollution.

With the issue of ocean plastic pollution high on the agenda in the wake of the BBC’s Blue Planet II nature series and campaigns by organisations from Greenpeace to Sky, potential measures to cut plastic waste are under the spotlight.

Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the Environmental Audit Committee, 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.

“Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches.

“We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back the plastic tide.”

The introduction of a 5p carrier bag charge, brought into force in Scotland in October 2014, has been credited with leading to a massive reduction in unnecessary waste, with shops reporting an 80 per cent fall in the number of bags being used.

Environmental campaigners said the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme in Scotland, which will form part of the proposed Climate Change Bill, would have a similarly positive effect.

The concept has won the backing of Coca-Cola but retailers have warned it will cost them £40.7 million through losses of sales and additional printing, security, deliveries and employee hours, with stores also having to store empty containers.