Deposit return scheme most effective measure to reduce plastic waste, finds study

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A new analysis by Common Oceans has explored the impact of England’s Resources and Waste Strategy on reducing plastic waste and found that a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers is the most effective measure in the Strategy.  

The report was published to present the evaluation tool, Plastic Drawdown, which is an evidence-based tool to support governments in identifying the best policies to mitigate their country’s plastic pollution. 

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It can also be used to evaluate the potential effectiveness of proposed plans and supports the process of developing strategies to tackle plastic, as well as providing recommendations for effective actions, and where the focus should be for research and innovation.  

To demonstrate Plastic Drawdown’s role as a tool, Common Oceans has done a review of the measures included in the Resources and Waste Strategy and highlighted the most effective interventions in terms of total mass of avoided plastic pollution by 2030, and overall proportion of plastic waste flow into rivers and seas. 

From this, it found that a deposit return scheme has the potential to achieve a 6.6.kt “drawdown” (total avoided plastic emissions by 2030), which equates for 45% of the total effect of the Strategy.  

Item taxes and bans make a small contribution in terms “drawdown” but are effective in addressing a high amount of the waste flow for those items targeted. For example, a ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds has a limited drawdown of up to 0.47kt, as they are low in mass. 

However, Common Oceans said that a well enforced ban can effectively “remove these items from the market”, meaning a high proportion of the plastic leakage attributed to these items is addressed.  

The paper also examined the overall effectiveness of the Strategy, relative to the total mass of plastic estimated to enter the watercourse from the UK.  

It also highlighted other sources of pollution outside the Strategy, such as tyre dust emitted due to vehicle road-wear and the plastic pellets used in productions, which are predicted to make the biggest total contribution to plastic leakage from the UK. 

Plastic Drawdown uses a four-phase approach resulting in the identification and mapping of plastic waste flows and leakage, an understanding of public policy intervention and their effectiveness, and a wedges model tool to allow decision makers to build and compare policies. 

This tool has been delivered in the UK, Greece, Indonesia, and is being developed in the Maldives.  

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