The Mayor of London should look at offering residents free water refills and bottle return schemes in order to combat the capital’s ‘out of control’ plastic waste problem, according to the London Assembly.
A report by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee last week said more plastic bottles needed to be recycled in the capital, citing evidence showing Londoners consume more plastic bottled water per person than anyone else in England.
Moreover, London boroughs have some of the worst recycling rates in the whole of the UK, and litter monitoring has found plastic bottles make up around 10 per cent of all rubbish found in the River Thames.
Members of the Committee urged Mayor Sadiq Khan to do more to combat the problem, highlighting the success of deposit return schemes in Germany where 99 per cent of plastic bottles are reportedly recycled. Similar schemes are also soon to be trialled by Coca-Cola in Scotland.
The report calls on the Mayor to explore the feasibility of enabling London consumers to reclaim some money back in exchange for bringing their plastic bottles to designated bottle deposit machines supermarkets and other places with a view to then trialling the initiative nationwide.
It also said providing free tap water refilling stations across the city and throughout the London transport network was “essential” for reducing plastic bottle waste, as well as promoting phone apps to help consumers locate businesses willing to provide free water refills.
However, the Committee warned against any measures that might encourage consumers to drink more sugary drinks instead of water.
Labour’s Leonie Cooper, chair of the Environment Committee, urged the Mayor to ban the sale of plastic bottled water on GLA premises and to address the wider plastic waste problem in his upcoming Environment Strategy.
“Plastic waste is out of control in London,” said Cooper. “It litters our parks, pollutes the Thames, harms marine life, and adds waste to London’s landfill sites, which may be full by 2025. We have to turn the situation around.”
A spokeswoman for the Mayor’s office claimed the Environment Strategy, due in Spring 2017, would include proposals aimed at recycling food and drink packaging waste, but that national initiatives were neeeded to combat the problem.
“Sadiq is extremely supportive of initiatives to help boost access to tap water on the go, such as stores and restaurants providing free tap water, and, rather than just a London scheme, believes that government needs to consider a national deposit return scheme to encourage the re-use of plastic water bottles,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee of MPs has also recently announced an investigation into the combatting the environmental damage caused by plastic drinks packaging, such as bottles and coffee cups.
But Bruce Bratley, founder and CEO of London recycling firm First Mile, said part of the problem was inconsistent recycling bins across the city creating consumer confusion over how to recycle properly.
“Ultimately, only when recycling is simple will absolutely everyone recycle their plastic water bottles,” said Bratley. “If a ‘money back’ scheme is introduced it will need to be easy to claim and provide an incentive for people to act on it.”