The head of a leading marine charity has written to bosses of 10 UK supermarkets urging them not to derail an “all-in” deposit return scheme for bottles and cans.
Marine Conservation Society (MCS) chief executive Sandy Luk warned the retail chiefs that some companies and manufacturers seem keen to thwart the introduction of a comprehensive scheme.
She wrote: “It is highly regrettable that some elements in UK industry, with vested interests, seem intent on making up as many excuses as possible to resist a scheme which will remove and recycle the largest numbers of containers.
“Lobbying behind the scenes must not be allowed to derail the most ambitious and comprehensive scheme from being introduced.”
The MCS said retailers must back the introduction of a money-back recycling system for consumers which includes all sizes and materials of containers, that is run as a not-for-profit system and is consistent across the UK.
It warned that anything less would fail to result in less litter and plastic poisoning marine wildlife and polluting waterways.
Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, who backed the scheme on Thursday, said: “Gone are the days when we can ignore the fact that we are having a pretty devastating impact on our planet.
“We can’t complain about rubbish, or those awful images of dying humpback whales with plastic in their stomachs, and do nothing.
Retailers must not shirk their responsibilities to their customers by propagating the plastic tide for their own benefit. Shoppers will never forgive business for doing soSandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society
“It’s one thing to not know and not do something about it. But to know what you are doing and not do something about it is criminal.”
She added: “I believe consumers will look into it because you only have to do things a few times before it becomes a habit and way of life.”
The Government is consulting over an “all-in” scheme or an alternative “on-the-go” option, which would be restricted to containers less than 750ml in size.
Under a deposit return scheme, a sum will be added to the price of drinks at purchase and refunded when consumers return their empty containers.
The MCS said other countries that had tried an “on-the-go” scheme had seen retailers and manufacturers simply switch sizes or material to get around the rules.
Ms Luk said she hoped the chief executives of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, Co-op, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Iceland would condemn those who were lobbying against a comprehensive scheme.
She said: “Supermarkets and other retailers do not want, in years to come, to be compared to the tobacco industry, which spent millions trying to hide the dangers of cigarettes to our health; or the fossil fuel industry for its continued production of non-sustainable energy sources and advancing climate change.
“Delaying the introduction of a comprehensive scheme will place a stranglehold on the environment, and effectively sentence much of our marine wildlife to an early death.
“Retailers must not shirk their responsibilities to their customers by propagating the plastic tide for their own benefit. Shoppers will never forgive business for doing so.”
Waitrose said: “We are supportive of an ‘all-in excluding glass’ model for a deposit return scheme which complements kerbside recycling, is financially realistic and affordable.”