A nationwide litter picking campaign has revealed the ‘astonishing variety’ of discarded cans and bottles, with a leading campaign group calling for a deposit return scheme that accepts all types of returned drinks.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) held 35 litter picks throughout September as part of their nationwide ‘Green Clean’ campaign with volunteers collecting 11,212 cans and bottles of all shapes, sizes and materials. Over a third (35%) of those collected were made from plastic, 50% were aluminium, 14% glass and 1% Tetra Pak.
The biggest culprits were the densely populated urban areas, such as Sheffield, where over 2000 bottles and cans were picked up in just two hours. However, they found that even the more remote places, like Throckley village in Northumberland and Brigg market town in North Lincolnshire, had huge litter problems.
CPRE say their findings should provide the incentive for the Government to ensure that all cans and bottles, of all types and sizes, are included in England’s deposit return system.
A deposit return system is a system of recycling where you pay a small deposit after buying a drink, which you get back on the return of the empty can or bottle.
The CPRE says that countries who have already introduced them, such as the Netherlands and Norway, have seen a rate of return of between 70%-98.5% due to the financial incentive.
In March this year, the Government promised to introduce a deposit-return scheme in England for single use drinks containers, however, they are still yet to make any concrete plans.
Samantha Harding, litter programme director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘By introducing a simple deposit system the Government has a golden opportunity to end growing scepticism around current recycling methods, collect and recycle more materials than ever right here in the UK, and ensure that those who produce the packaging rightly pay the full cost of recovering the materials that they produce. But it will only work if it is universal in the types of cans and bottles it accepts.
‘Deposit return infrastructure is the same for large plastic bottles as it would be for small plastic bottles, cans and glass – failing to set the system up to collect all that it can, will set the system up to fail. The Government is committed to tackling waste and boosting recycling and with this solution it has the chance to get things right.
‘In recent times, there has been a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour and attitudes – people genuinely want to take responsibility for the amount of packaging used. We all want recycling to work, but our data clearly shows that current collection methods are failing.’
In October last year, a study by consultants Eunomia claimed introducing deposit return schemes for beer cans and soft drink bottles in England could help save local authorities £35m.