Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley) Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley)
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Call for ban on disposable bottles

The Times, 10th June 2016


Disposable plastic drinks bottles would be banned across the European Union to reduce litter and prevent pollution of rivers and the sea, under proposals from a group of senior politicians.

All drinks bottles should either be re-fillable or subject to deposit/return schemes charging customers a refundable fee of up to 20p, Environmentalists for Europe said.

More than 13 billion single-use plastic bottles are sold in Britain each year, an average of 200 per person. Only about half are recycled. The thin plastic bottles are used by almost all drinks manufacturers.

More than 8,000 plastic bottles were picked up from beaches in a single weekend last year in an annual clean-up organised by the Marine Conservation Society. Its volunteers collected 160 bottles per mile of beach, 43 per cent more than the previous year.

Selfridges stopped selling single-use water bottles last year and London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo announced this week that they would also ban them from their cafés and kiosks. Stanley Johnson, father of Boris Johnson and co-chairman of Environmentalists for Europe, said the group wanted an EU-wide ban on "non-returnable bottles — the plastic ones that are so easy to throw away but cause havoc for birds and fish".

He said the group would support deposit schemes for the bottles which could be collected and recycled. In Germany, 98.5 per cent of plastic bottles in a deposit scheme are returned. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Estonia also have bottle deposit schemes and the Scottish government is considering introducing one.

In 2013, Concord, a small town in Massachusetts, US, banned the sale of water in bottles smaller than one litre. Jean Hill, the 84-year-old grandmother who led a campaign for the ban, said she had been inspired by her grandson, who had told her about a vast floating island of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean.

In 2014, San Francisco banned the sale of single-use bottles of water in municipal buildings and parks. Last year, Selfridges stopped selling single-use bottles.

London Zoo, which sold 155,000 plastic bottles of water last year, banned them this week and will sell reusable plastic bottles which can be filled by visitors from taps.

Plastic bag usage has fallen by about 80 per cent in major supermarkets since the introduction of a 5p charge last October.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was developing a litter strategy for England and would review the evidence on deposit schemes for plastic bottles.

Mr Johnson said the UK should introduce its own ban if the EU failed to act, but it made sense to have a common EU approach. EU action also made sense because plastic pollution of the sea also did not respect territorial boundaries, he added.

Westminster city council is considering installing 50 drinking fountains in central London to encourage people to avoid buying disposable bottles. The fountains would be installed next summer and could be incorporated into new street sculptures.

Families visiting beaches this summer are being encouraged to take part in a scheme called "return to offender" in which they post plastic bottles and other litter they find back to the manufacturers using their freepost address.

Surfers Against Sewage, which is behind the scheme, said it was aimed at encouraging companies to help change the behaviour of people who dropped litter, such as by supporting deposit schemes.

The British Plastics Federation, which represents the plastic industry, said it opposed deposit schemes.

A spokesman said: "Having strong anti-litter campaigns is far more effective in tackling litter than having a deposit scheme that only targets one particular product.

"A comprehensive kerbside collection system exists in the UK for plastic bottles with 99 per cent of councils offering a kerbside service."