High street chain Pret is looking to reduce the nation’s plastic waste with a new plastic bottle return scheme that incentivises customers to recycle.
In a trial beginning in three Brighton branches in April, Pret will add a 10p deposit to all plastic bottles sold in store. Customers will then receive 10p back for each bottle given back to teams to recycle. If the trial is successful, it may be extended across other areas of the UK later this year.
“The aim is to understand how many bottles are returned and to see if it encourages more customers to opt for a reusable bottle. We will of course reinvest any unclaimed deposits in future sustainability work,” Pret CEO Clive Schlee said.
Despite shows like ‘Planet Earth II’ capturing our imaginations, the UK currently does a shoddy job at recycling plastic. We currently use 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled.
Schlee floated the idea of a deposit scheme with customers last month in a blog post, inviting members of the public to contact him with feedback. Over 7,000 customers responded to the call out and 80% said they believe it’s a good idea.
“It will take time to eliminate unnecessary plastic, but I hope this sort of initiative will bring that day forward by drawing attention to the issue and stimulating new ideas,” Schlee said. “We’ve chosen Brighton because we have three busy shops there and we know the local people are highly attuned to the environment. If it is successful we could extend the scheme across the country during the Autumn of 2018.”
Schlee said he was inspired to look into the possibility of a bottle return scheme after seeing other countries successfully reduce their plastic waste with such plans.
For example, Norway uses ‘reverse vending machines’ as collection points for used plastic containers, which are then taken to specialised recycling areas. These machines have been in place since 1972. While the UK fails to recycle half of its plastic bottles, Norway manages to recycle over 90%.
Pret’s announcement follows growing pressure on the Government and big businesses to cut plastic waste across the UK. Surfers Against Sewage, a grassroots movement tackling plastic pollution, has been campaigning for a UK-wide deposit return system for plastics for the last two years.
At the end of 2017, it delivered a petition to Downing Street with 325,000 signatures supporting its Message In A Bottle petition, which voiced the need of a sustainable way to manage our use of plastics.