A deposit return scheme must include all types of drinks containers, campaigners said as they revealed the variety of bottles and cans which end up as litter.
Communities who cleaned up their green spaces in 35 “green clean” litter picks organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), collected 11,212 drinks containers of various materials and sizes.
While much of the focus is on plastic packaging polluting the countryside and the oceans, plastic accounted for just over a third (35%) of the drinks containers picked up, while half were aluminium cans, 14% were glass and 1% were cartons.
The drinks containers collected by the volunteer litter pickers in English towns, cities and the countryside also ranged in size, CPRE said.
Failing to set the system up to collect all that it can will set the system up to failSamantha Harding, CPRE
Among the plastic litter, more than seven in 10 (71%) were 500ml containers, the size of an average bottle of water, while 10% were smaller, and 19% were large or extra large bottles.
Less than a third of cans (29%) were 330ml, the size of an average fizzy drink, while more than half (53%) were bigger – an average beer can – and 18% were smaller, such as energy drinks.
A quarter of glass bottles collected were smaller than 330ml, such as stubby or regular beer bottles, 42% were 400 to 750ml, the size of a larger beer bottle and a third were bigger still, such as wine or large spirits bottles.
The Government is planning to bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers which adds a deposit when the drink is bought which is redeemed when the bottle or can is brought back to a return point for recycling.
But CPRE claims the packaging and drinks industries are trying to dilute the system and limit the type and size of containers that will be included.
The conservation charity is calling for England’s deposit return system to include all types of bottles and cans, including drinks packaging on the market now as well as being able to include different sizes and types that may be introduced in the future.
Samantha Harding from CPRE 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.”
She added: “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.”