Is This The Solution To The UK's Dire Plastic Problem?

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The government has announced plans to introduce a "deposit return scheme" in England to crack down on plastic bottle waste.
A press release issued today by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said that each year more than three billion plastic bottles are are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute the UK's environment instead of being recycled. The deposit return scheme will use a financial incentive to encourage people to recycle as many plastic bottles as possible.
The scheme is currently subject to a "consultation" that will take place later this year, so we don't know yet exactly how it will work but it will likely follow the example set with similar deposit return schemes that have proved successful in Sweden and Germany.
In these countries, customers pay an up-front deposit (the equivalent of 8p in Sweden, and 22p in Germany) when they buy a drink sold in a plastic bottle. Once that same bottle is returned empty, the customer gets the deposit back.
The government notes that so-called "reverse vending machines" have been used in these countries to make the scheme quick and efficient. You simply insert your plastic bottle into the machine, and it dispenses the deposit you're owed.
An alternative plan - to pay money to consumers when they return a bottle without asking them to lay down a deposit first - is also being considered.
"We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats," Environment Secretary Michael Gove said.
"It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled."
Writing on Twitter, a Canadian woman living in the UK noted that a similar scheme in her home country has the added bonus of helping homeless people make some extra cash.
Other UK countries are expected to introduce their own plastic bottle deposit return schemes too. As the BBC reports, Scotland has already announced a similar scheme, and Wales has launched a study into how one would work.
The government's announcement is another step towards a more environmentally-conscious future for the UK. Plastic-free supermarket aisles and zero-waste shops are springing up with increased frequency, bans on common single-use plastic items like bags, straws and microbeads are being implemented, and campaigners are lobbying to discourage coffee chains from using disposable cups.
Critics may argue that the deposit return scheme almost "penalises" people who recycle already, but as one one Twitter user pointed out, we've long lagged behind continental Europe when it comes to recycling. It's high time we caught up.
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