Thursday, April 13, 2017

It’s all Litter Lately
– Is Plastic Cash part of the answer?

What with the Redbridge Streets Commission moving into the report stage this evening and the National Government issuing its new anti-littering strategy, now we have the London Assembly wading in with their own report on plastic bottles, which make up a large part of the litter problem in London and in particular the River Thames.

The national anti-litter strategy document can be found here. And there is a handy summary of the main points over on Calvin’s Crime Prevention website here. He’s quite impressed but I’m not. It’s all a bit airy-fairy; intentions without any practical suggestions to achieve them.

The London Assembly report, on the other hand, does have a bit more substance. They identify plastic waste as a growing problem particularly plastic water bottles.
  • Londoners consume more plastic bottled water per person than anywhere else in England.
  • London has some of the worst recycling rates in the UK.
  • Plastic bottles make up 10 per cent of all litter found in the Thames.

They also found
  • More plastic bottles need to be recycled in London. In Germany, where DRS machines are located in places such as supermarkets, 99 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled
  • Providing tap water as an alternative is essential.
  • Three quarters of the flounder swimming in the Thames had consumed plastic.
The recommendations include:
  • The Mayor should explore the feasibility of a DRS in London, with a view to trialling a nation-wide scheme. A DRS would offer an incentive for Londoners to return plastic bottles by adding a reclaimable amount to the price of bottled drinks.
  • The Mayor should: - encourage community water refill schemes in which Londoners can fill up water bottles for free at participating venues; - install more water refilling stations across the London transport network; - promote apps to help consumers locate businesses willing to provide free water refills.
  • The Mayor must address plastic water bottle waste specifically in his upcoming Environment Strategy.
Environment Committee Chair, Leonie Cooper AM, said:

“Plastic waste is out of control in London. 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. Firstly, Londoners need an alternative to buying bottles of water - this is a crucial part of the solution. Tap water needs to be more readily available. Secondly, we need to improve our recycling of plastic bottles. Currently, far too many end up in landfill or in the natural environment and London boroughs have some of the worst recycling rates in the whole of the UK.

Electors heard Sadiq Khan pledge to be the 'greenest Mayor London has ever had’, now it’s time to fulfil that promise by addressing our thirst for plastic bottled water.”


  1. There are at least three glaring misconceptions in this blog. The first is that to suppose anyone gullible enough to pay good money for a bottle of plain water ("straight from the Highlands of Scotland" and with an expiry date!) has the commonsense to dispose of the container intelligently. The second is that any of these people would dream of refilling that container with TAP water - ugh! And the third misconception is that 'for free' is correct English. Free is an ADJECTIVE in this context. Would you say 'for clean', 'for happy' or 'for tasty'?

  2. there were public drinking fountains everywhere when I was a child, nobody went thirsty.M aged 83

  3. I suppose a plastic bottle might be fractionally better to drink from than the horrific cast iron cups secured with a chain which came with those old street drinking fountains but an unquenched thirst is not too fussy and think about how 'green' it was even if you don't count the verdigris.

  4. DRS = Deposit Recycling Scheme? Or similar? Not a term I am familiar with, although the meaning seems clear enough.

  5. It's deposit return scheme. But an abbreviation should always be written out in full the first time it is used in an article.

    I remember public drinking fountains but not cast iron cups secured with a chain. You could squirt the water into your mouth without touching the tap with your lips if the pressure was high enough.

    'For free' is correct idiomatic English by virtue of it being in widespread use and clear in its meaning. English is not a language that adheres to strict rules of grammar. It evolves with use and has always done so.

  6. I know that most Diabetics carry a bottle of water with them. I carry one for when I need to take medication (often!)

    There are usually taps where you can refill with fresh water in:

    GP Surgeries & Health Centres where there is a loo;
    Cemeteries (for watering plants)