Published in the Daily Mail, 4 March 2017
Those of us of a certain age will feel a tinge of excitement at talk of a return to bottle deposit schemes.
As a youngster I took empty pop bottles back to the shop for pennies. I also remember the early-morning clink of empties as the milkman finished his round.
Long before recycling was fashionable, Britain had common sense systems like these for reusing empties. Deposit schemes and recycled glass bottles, driven on an electric float. What a shame we have lost them!
Drinks companies ditched deposit schemes and replaced reusable glass with disposable plastic to boost profits. Milk rounds went the same way, as supermarkets put loss-leading milk in plastic bottles.
Most of the hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic produced in the world each year is used only once. Products may be cheaper, but we're paying the price of the environmental catastrophe this is causing.
Plastic bottles litter our towns and countryside, collect in our rivers and end up in the sea. If things carry on, experts fear there could be more pieces of plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. Plastic also finds its way on to our dinner plates in seafood as discarded bottles break up in the sea into particles swallowed by sea life.
We can all do our bit by switching to reusable water bottles. But, more importantly, the drinks industry must take responsibility.
Parliament also needs to look at what Government can do. That's why the Commons' cross-party green watchdog the Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, is launching an inquiry today looking at the problem of plastic bottles and other disposable drinks containers like coffee cups.
We've already examined the build-up of plastic in the ocean and secured a ban on toxic plastic microbeads with the help of the Daily Mail. I pay tribute to the Mail whose campaign on single use plastic bags also forced the Government to change track. Now the Mail's Take Back Your Bottles campaign has put plastic bottle waste on the agenda.
Our committee will examine solutions like deposit schemes. And we will ask drinks companies what they are doing to reduce waste and boost recycling.
Deposit schemes saved resources and kept streets clean. We will look at whether we should reintroduce them. If Government and industry listen, together we can turn back the tide of plastic choking our seas.