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Have You Got The Bottle?

Friday July 7, 2017
Have You Got The Bottle?

Photo © MCS / Natasha Ewins


As part of a series of guest blogs, we’ve invited The Marine Conservation Society(MCS) to explain how the public can get behind the deposit return scheme (DRS). Viridian Nutrition has been operating a DRS for its glass bottles since it began in 1999 and wholeheartedly supports environmental initiatives.  


Guest blog by Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer and Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer at The Marine Conservation Society. 


At the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) we have long been supporters of deposit return schemes (DRS) for drinks containers such plastic and glass bottles and cans. Such systems are already working in around 40 countries or states across the world and have improved high quality recycling rates and reduced the amount of drinks related litter on beaches, streets and in the countryside.


It seems like a no-brainer, you pay a deposit on your bottle of water or can of pop, then when you’ve finished with it you return it to where you bought it from, or you feed it into a machine, and hey presto, you get your money back!


Why are we so supportive of DRS?


Plastic bottles and their associated tops, together with aluminium drinks cans and glass bottles are some of the most highly visible items of beach litter recorded each year during our annual Great British Beach Clean. Bottles and cans are always in the top 20 items collected and make up at least 10% of all litter found. We have to stop litter getting to our seas, as once there it is very difficult and expensive to remove it. A DRS would seem to be an ideal way to capture this type of litter.



Photo © MCS / Charlotte Coombes


What are we doing?


As well as supporting all calls to implement DRS across the UK and getting our supporters to write to their MPs, AMs, or MSPs, we are also running a #wildbottlesighting campaign to highlight the growing amount of bottles and cans in our environment and the impact they can have on our fantastic wildlife, beautiful wild spaces, cities, towns, streets, parks, rivers and canals. Anyone can report a 'Wild Bottle' sighting and they have been reported from beach cleaners, walkers, cyclists and other concerned members of the public through social media and the online MCS #wildbottlesighting map. 

In Scotland we have worked through the Have You Got The Bottle? Campaign, a coalition headed up by the Association to Protect Rural Scotland (APRS) which now has  over 70 supporting organisations all calling for a DRS in Scotland including brewers, retailers, cafes, restaurants, universities, recreational and community groups and NGOs.


So what’s happening in the UK?


Scotland is far ahead of the game with the fantastic announcement at the beginning of June by the Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, that she has commissioned Zero Waste Scotland to design a deposit return system for Scotland, and in a move that is believed to be a global first, industry giant Coca-Cola UK has come out in support of implementing a Deposit Return System in Scotland before it has even been put in place!


In Wales over 2,000 people signed our petition to the Welsh Assembly asking for a deposit return system in Wales. Our call was prompted after MCS beach litter data from Wales showed a steady rise in the number of caps, lids and glass bottles found on Welsh beaches in the last five years. 


Things are starting to move slowly in England. There’s been an Environmental Audit Inquiry into coffee cup and plastic bottle waste and the Litter Strategy for England has formed a new working group to look at economic and voluntary measures. Deposit return systems will be considered as part of this.


The news of Coca-Cola’s change of heart in Scotland was obviously great news for supporters of deposit return as a whole and Suez, a major waste company in the UK, have come out in favour of too with its Chief Executive David Palmer-Jones stating: “A bottle deposit scheme would help consumers and producers make the step-change required to reinvigorate the country’s stalling recycling performance and help us to unlock the value in packaging as a commodity, which can be put back into the supply chain rather than throwing it away.”


All these together have added to the positive pressure across the UK to look more closely at DRS. Our vision is that deposit return systems will be up and running or being planned across the UK in the next five years and we will all be wondering what the fuss was about – just like the 5p carrier bag charge.

How can you help?


If you live in England you can send a letter to your MP via this link:

Wherever you live in the UK – report your #wildbottlesighting via our interactive map.


For more about the Great British Beach Clean, visit:


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