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UK Government urged to follow Scotland on bottle return scheme

Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham called on her UK counterpart Michael Gove to act on the issue.

Scottish ministers have called on the UK Government to follow their lead and bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in September the Scottish Government was to press ahead with such a scheme – with her Environment Secretary Roseann Cunningham saying they had a “duty to demonstrate leadership”.

The Scottish Government has pledged to back the European Union’s vision to phase out single use plastics by 2030, with Ms Cunningham demanding the UK should do the same “Brexit or no Brexit”.

She made the plea as she addressed an audience of business and environmental leaders at Scotland House in London.

Ms Cunningham told them: “The Scottish Government is responsible for the environmental protection of around 10% per cent of Europe’s coastline so we have a particular duty to demonstrate leadership.

“But, of course, discarded plastics are having a growing impact on land as well as at sea.

“We believe a deposit return scheme for drinks containers has a vital role to play in protecting our environment and wish to co-operate with the UK government, and other devolved administrations, to deliver the best possible scheme for everyone.

“The time for action is now, and I urge the UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove to join us in this important endeavour.”

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has already called on ministers to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic drinks bottles.

And Ms Cunningham said she was “disappointed” such a scheme had not been included in the UK Government’s 25-year environmental plan.

Launched by Prime Minister Theresa May in January, it commits the UK to eliminating avoidable plastic waste within 25 years.

A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Our commitment to reduce plastic waste is clear – we are the first country in Europe to ban microbeads and our 25 year environment plan set out our plans to extend the 5p plastic bag charge, improve recycling rates and explore plastic free aisles in supermarkets.

“A call for evidence was carried out to help us understand how deposit and reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers could work in England. We are considering that evidence fully and will announce the results in due course.”

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland said: “Plans by the Scottish Government to phase out single use plastics by 2030 is a really welcome and significant step forward.

“The tide is turning quickly on plastics and we’re confident consumers in Scotland will support deposit return. We urgently need to help consumers reduce plastic consumption where it is clearly unnecessary.

“The UK Government plan to wait until 2042 will see more plastic than fish in our oceans. To avoid falling out of step with the EU and Scotland, the UK Government needs to go further faster to halt the wave of coffee cup, plastic bottle and other plastic waste.”

A Defra spokesman said: “While it’s welcome the EU is now looking at restrictions on microplastics, we have already banned plastic microbeads in personal care products in England – the first European country to do so.

“Additionally, we don’t just want to ensure plastic packaging is recyclable, we want to eliminate avoidable plastic waste altogether.

“We are committed to do more to reduce single-use plastics so that we can be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

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