London should tackle its ‘out of control’ plastic waste problem by introducing deposit return schemes and making free drinking water more widely available, according to a new report.
The London Assembly environment committee wants to see collective action from local authorities, the mayor, Greater London Authority and employers to tackle the environmental damage caused by plastic bottles.
Its report highlighted how the capital has some of the country’s worst recycling rates while Londoners consume more bottled water than anywhere else in England.
This has proved to be a recipe for mounting problems with plastic bottles making up 10% of all litter found in the Thames, it warned. More than 4,000 were removed during one month alone last year.
‘Unless other sources of water are made more easily available, people in London will keep drinking water sold in plastic bottles,’ said the report. ‘This is a crucial part of the solution. We do not want people switching from bottled water to sugary soft drinks or other bottled products, due to the negative health consequences.’
The committee called on mayor Sadiq Khan to address plastic water bottle waste in his upcoming environment strategy. This should include helping councils to improve access to drinking water through community refill schemes and working with Transport for London to introduce more refilling stations across its network.
Business improvement districts could also play a crucial role in reducing the use of plastic bottles, it said.
Deposit scheme pilot
As well as continuing efforts to improve local authority recycling rates, the report urged the mayor to commission a feasibility study into a deposit return scheme (DRS) for London.
The committee’s report cited the example of Germany, where strategically located DRS machines have led to plastic bottle recycling rates as high as 99%.
‘If this [study] concludes the approach would be successful, the mayor should offer London as a pilot site for a government-backed DRS,’ it said.
Environment committee chair, Leonie Cooper, said: ‘Plastic waste is out of control in London. It litters our parks, pollutes the Thames, harms marine life, and adds waste to London’s landfill sites, which may be full by 2025.
‘We have to turn the situation around. Firstly, Londoners need an alternative to buying bottles of water – this is a crucial part of the solution. Tap water needs to be more readily available.
‘Secondly, we need to improve our recycling of plastic bottles. Currently, far too many end up in landfill or in the natural environment and London boroughs have some of the worst recycling rates in the whole of the UK.
Electors heard Sadiq Khan pledge to be the “greenest mayor London has ever had”, now it’s time to fulfil that promise by addressing our thirst for plastic bottled water.’
Photo by Metro Centric