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MPs call for plastic bottle deposit return scheme to ease environmental crisis

Incinerating bottles produces 233,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every twelve months. Credit: PA

MPs have called for a UK-wide scheme to charge a deposit for drinks bottles, which is paid back when they are returned for recycling.

The Environmental Audit Committee said the government should also legislate that 50% of plastic bottles should be made from recycled plastic content by 2023.

The plan would ease the plastic crisis that currently sees nearly half of 13 billion plastic bottles used each year end up littered, in landfill or incinerated, the latter producing 233,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every twelve months.

All public premises that serve food or drink including leisure and sports centres should be required to provide free drinking water on request, the committee added, while companies should be made financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce.

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

"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, chairwoman of the Environmental Audit Committee.

"Our throwaway society uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled. 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."

MPs said the UK's recycling rate for plastic bottles has stalled for the past five years.

A spokesman for the Environment Department said: "We are determined to tackle plastic waste and have made progress by taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge, and we will be introducing one of the world's toughest bans on plastic microbeads.

"An independent working group launched a call for evidence to help understand the benefits, costs and impacts of deposit and reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers in England.

"This group is due to provide advice to ministers in early 2018."