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London's plastic water bottle waste is out of control

The amount of waste from single-use plastic bottles in London has risen out of control, according to a report from the London assembly environment committee.

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It calls on the mayor to consider introducing a deposit return scheme and to provide free tap water as an alternative.

The report, published on Thursday, finds that the London population consumes more plastic bottled water than anywhere else in England – 7.7bn a year – yet has the worst recycling rate in the UK – 32%, compared with a national average of 43%.

Plastic bottles make up 10% of all litter found in the Thames, the Thames21 waterways group revealed recently. A separate study found three-quarters of the flounder swimming in the river had ingested plastic. Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down.

The report urges the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to address the specific issue of plastic water bottle waste in his upcoming environment strategy. It recommends that he examines the feasibility and practicalities of a bottle deposit return scheme, which the government could later roll out nationwide. Such a scheme would offer an incentive to return plastic bottles by adding a reclaimable amount to the price of bottled drinks.

To reduce Londoners’ thirst for bottled water, tap water should be more readily available from community refill facilities and at mainline rail and underground stations as well as bus stops, the report says.

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