Sustainable Energy

Shoppers in England could get money back for returning plastic bottles to stores

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The U.K. government is to introduce a scheme that could give shoppers in England money back in return for their empty drinks containers in a bid to encourage consumers to recycle.

The 'deposit return scheme', subject to consultation later this year, will cover single use plastic, glass and metal drinks containers, authorities said Wednesday.

The consultation will look into how such a system would work as well as other ways to boost recycling rates.

The government said that, across the U.K., consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles annually, with over 3 billion either sent to landfill, incinerated, or left to pollute streets, the marine environment and the countryside.

It added that similar schemes were already in operation in countries including Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Return schemes usually work with consumers paying an "upfront deposit" when they purchase a beverage. They are then reimbursed when they return their drinks container. The government said that deposits ranged from 8p (11 cents) in Sweden to 22p in Germany.

The government added that a variant on the scheme could include "cash rewards" for returning drinks without the need for an upfront deposit. It did not announce how much the deposit would be for consumers in England.

"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 in a statement Wednesday. "It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled," he added.

Bill Bryson, the Iowa-born author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, welcomed the news. "Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking, and one that raises the prospect of the world's most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last," he said.