Among fellow Western nations, the UK lags behind in many areas of sustainability. One such example is with the recycling of plastic bottles. Whilst just over half of all plastic bottles used in the UK are recycled, this figure is significantly lower than the nine in ten that are recycled in countries such as Australia and Denmark.
Many countries that have better recycling rates than the UK owe much of their success to government programmes designed to reward environmentally responsible decisions. In countries like Australia and Denmark, the governments have set up schemes whereby individuals can drop off their empty bottles to stores and receive money back in return.
These so-called ‘reward and return’ schemes are praised by many as having served to facilitate great progress in the struggle to be more environmentally friendly as a society, but they are not without their critics. Some say that the money that is claimed back by consumers is simply added to the original cost of the product, meaning higher prices and no financial gain for ordinary people.
Nevertheless, the success of the schemes at increasing rates of recycling is undeniable and the government is naturally keen to explore the option of implementing similar schemes in the UK, considering the urgent need to deal with the environmental crisis.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, “Our oceans are our planet’s greatest natural resource and this government is determined to ensure we restore them to health for the next generation.”
The initial idea involves offering a 6p refund for every bottle returned, which would be the equivalent of what Australians currently receive. A working group has been set up to research and explore the concept, and it is due to report its findings to the government early in the New Year.
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