current affairs waste

the return of the bottle deposit

I’m all for bringing back good ideas that we don’t do any more, and one of those is deposits on bottles. We used to have a deposit payable on glass bottles, and this was returned when the bottles were handed back, so they could be refilled. This is how it worked in Kenya where I went to school. In fact, I did very well gathering up spare coke bottles from people too lazy to return them, and supplemented my pocket money on the five shilling deposits.

Anyway, I was interested to see that the Campaign to Protect Rural England are suggesting a return of the bottle deposit:

“Each household disposes of 500 plastic bottles a year (a total of 13 billion in the UK), but just 130 of these are recycled, meaning that 370 go to landfill, or into our streets, fields and hedgerows. A 10p deposit system on plastic bottles alone could therefore earn an average family £50 a year – just for returning their waste – while contributing to a cleaner environment.”

The suggestion is part of their ‘Stop the Drop‘ anti-littering campaign, fronted by author Bill Bryson, which launched yesterday.

It’s a workable idea. As well as Kenya, schemes already operate in Germany, Sweden and Australia, even Scotland. And it works – an initiative in Iowa saw litter drop by 70%, because it gave litter a value, and people returned it.

Minister for Waste Joan Ruddock is amenable to the idea: “I have asked officials to look at novel ways on how we deal with the worst litter offenders, which are bottles and cans. It may be possible to devise a scheme where people deposit used bottles and cans and get a reward. I can see the attraction of take-back schemes with a reward.”

So, watch this space. And save up your bottles.


  1. Some states in the US do this as well. I’ve often wondered why the practice disappeared here: presumably buying new got cheaper than the cost of running the schemes, but I don’t know.

  2. I think deposits on bottles and cans etc, are a great idea and we all need to get together to get a united campaign going.

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