Londoners could have to pay a deposit for bottled water in litter crackdown

Francesca Gillett
Bottled water accounts for nearly half of all plastic bottle waste found in the River Thames: Getty Images

Londoners could be asked to pay a deposit when buying bottled water in a crackdown on tonnes of plastic waste being thrown in the Thames.

Mayor Sadiq Khan is being urged to install more drinking water taps around the capital as well as introduce a money deposit scheme to encourage Londoners to recycle their plastic bottles.

The Mayor was told London’s waste from plastic water bottles was “out of control” with people in London consuming more plastic bottled water per person than anywhere else in the UK. Despite this, the capital has the worst recycling rate in the whole country.

In a newly-published report by the London Assembly’s environment committee, the Mayor was urged to act fast to combat the plastic waste epidemic, sparked by sales of bottled water rocketing in the last two decades.

Volunteers from Thames21, London's leading waterways charity, help clean the foreshores of the River Thames at Brentford. (PA Archive/PA Images)

One idea suggested was a deposit scheme where shoppers pay extra for bottles of water, but are refunded some of the money when they return the bottle to a special recycling machine.

In Germany, where water bottle deposit schemes have already been introduced, 99 per cent of all plastic bottles are recycled.

The report has asked the Mayor to launch a study into how the scheme could work and suggested the idea could be rolled out nationwide after a pilot in London.

Another mooted idea was to urge local businesses to offer to fill up Londoners’ water bottles for free as well as more water refill taps at bus stations and piers along the Thames.

The environmental committee's report has been submitted to Sadiq Khan. (Reuters)

Environmental charity Thames21 – whose Thames River Watch research was used in the London Assembly report – said it was “fantastic” to see their study being used to guide policy.

Half of all plastic bottles found dumped in the Thames were water bottles, their research found.

The charity’s figures also showed more than 4,000 discarded bottles were found in just one month of sweeping the river.

Debbie Leach, head of Thames21, backed the deposit return scheme and said: “We would also underline that if it wasn’t for London’s fantastic volunteers who have for years given their spare time to help at the charity’s river clean up events across the capital, London would be drowning beneath a mountain of plastic bottle waste.

“We share the Environment Committee’s view that a deposit return scheme should be looked at as an important way of addressing the huge problem of single use plastic bottles ending up in London’s waterways.”