The scheme is aimed at improving recycling and cutting the vast tonnage of waste plastic finding its way into our oceans but campaigners want less talk more action
It’s not often thoroughly good ideas get an airing in modern Britain, all the more so if they involve plans to keep its children from having to live in a noxious rubbish tip that run the risk of irritating businesses.
But, wait, what’s this: Are we set to see belated launch of a deposit and return scheme covering drinks containers, whether plastic, glass, or metal, with the aim of encouraging recycling?
That’d be quite something from a Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs run by one of the more noxious politicians this country has produced in the form of Michael Gove.
- Government considering plastic bottle deposit scheme
- UK set to throw away a third more disposable cups
- Plastic pollution in sea set to treble in a decade, warn scientists
Is this an attempt Mr Gove, a former newspaperman who knows the value of a good headline, to clean, and green, up his reputation outside of the offices of right wing media moguls and the haunts favoured by the antediluvian trolls that growl from seats taken by his backbench brextremist buddies. Or is this just an attempt to garner some cheap PR?
The idea of the scheme is hard to fault.
Britain’s supermarkets, and its drinks industry, produce a staggering amount of waste every year.
There is an economic cost as well as environmental one to that through the impact it has on people’s health and especially the food chain.
A recent report for the government warned that the world’s oceans face a trebling of plastic pollution in a decade if action is not taken. As such there is a clear, and indeed urgent, need to wean ourselves, and our supermarkets, off our addiction to the stuff.
Retailers, and or the drinks industry, which will have to be involved in administering and paying for the scheme, will naturally whinge and lobby against it. The former had no love for the plastic bag tax when it was introduced, a staggeringly successful measure that has cut use by 90 per cent or so. Thing is, everyone soon got used to it.
The trouble with the deposit scheme is that so far it is only a proposal out for consultation. Good ideas can easily turn into less good ideas during this part of the process and Mr Gove is a minister who does rather prefer talk and nice headlines to action.
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There has also been talk of a scrapple scheme for diesel cars but that appears to have been dropped. It was only a couple of weeks ago that latte levy, that would have cut the use of hard to recycle disposable coffee cups by imposing a plastic bag style charge, was put into the recycling.
Deposit and return schemes in Europe have been highly successful, and by building on their experience England could be no different (Scotland is already pressing ahead, Wales is looking into the deal).
It's now down to Mr Gove to make it happen. But will it be green Gove, or grey Gove? The Council for the Protection of Rural England cheered the idea when it was unveiled, but I think it would be wise to hold back until we see what actually emerges from his consultation process.