The plastic tide is turning – But have we bitten off more than we can chew?

This week, Michael Gove announced that the UK will introduce a plastic bottle deposit return scheme (DRS) to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of litter polluting our land and seas.

The scheme will work by using a “reverse vending” process, in which consumers are refunded money for returning their drinks bottles back to retailers. Research by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committeefound countries with deposit return schemes tended to recycle between 80% and 95% of their plastic bottles. It is hoped that the scheme will be able to boost England’s stagnating recycling rate, which is 57% for plastic bottles, compared to other European nations who are recording recycling rates for bottles at 98%.

While the introduction of the DRS has been hailed as a success by many environmental groups, some troubling questions are starting to emerge about how the scheme will be implemented and how it will impact current systems in the UK. 

Can our infrastructure cope? 

The UK is considerably more densely populated than other the European nations using DRS, which poses technical challenges for implementation. Experts have warned that there are not currently enough recycling plants to process the increased amount of plastic that would need to be processed on home soil. Local councils have also expressed concerns that implementing a deposit return scheme on top of current waste and recycling systems could undercut their revenues, which currently benefit from plastic recycling collections. PET bottles are worth around £130 a tonne, which is a major income stream for local councils. 

Are retailers on board? Major retailers are largely on board with the DRS, but some issues have been raised over how the scheme will work in practice and a lack of overall brief. Many in the retail industry feel there is no clear direction on how users will interact with the scheme, such as the fact that different strategies will be needed for urban areas and more sparsely populated areas. There is also no clear consensus as to which system people should favour – their kerbside collection or the DRS? 

Will the scheme reducer litter? 

Litter reduction has been cited as one of the key aims of the deposit return scheme, but there is little evidence that the scheme will actually achieve this. Reducing litter and encouraging recycling on the go is a notoriously difficult behaviour to address. A DEFRA report has shown that monetary or other rewards are unlikely to encourage consumers to use recycling bins outside of their house. A German study published four years after its deposit scheme was introduced also found no evidence of litter reduction. 

Can the scheme succeed? 

The positive news is that the DRS has come at a time when people are increasingly aware of the dangers of plastics and the need to avoid throwing them in the bin or leave them lying around without properly disposing of them. Our ‘plastic problem’ has become a topical issue, thanks to the Blue Planet II series and various social media campaigns, which have led to some major retailers making pledges to reduce the amount of plastics they produce or use on site. This political climate suggests the DRS would receive high levels of engagement and correspondingly high plastic recycling rates. 

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Bethany Fruen

Head of Communications

Bethany Fruen

Since joining Jump fresh out of university back in 2013 I’ve seen many changes in the way we communicate – both as a company and more widely within the sustainability industry. The current shift of sustainability to the mainstream is accelerating at a pace and it’s exciting to be part of this step change.  The insight I get from individual participants in our client programmes is invaluable as it helps me figure out the best way to get our messages across.

My team and I use digital communications to recognise individual and team success, providing information in a fun, meaningful way that encourages people to take action. It’s about creating a feedback loop where people see that their actions are having an impact and this is very powerful in creating positive change within an organisation.


Lawrence Mitchell

Change Management

Lawrence Mitchell

I am Chief Customer Officer of SumoSalad, former Chief Marketing Officer at RELX: Risk & Analytics and Founder of RAW Energy. Having worked in publishing for 20 years, living through the first phases of the digital revolution, I’m used to disruption, uncertainty and transformation. But through all of this, my belief in putting the customer at the heart of an organisation by leveraging data analytics has helped multiple brands innovate, evolve and transform. 

I’m a huge advocate for promoting wellness in the workplace which is central to our Jump mission, and created the award-winning RBI Living Well programme. Through my RAW Energy platform, I support business and community leaders to be more resilient, more authentic and more focused on wellbeing.  A regular contributor to marketing, customer experience and wellness forums, I’ve written three books including Success without Stress: How to Prevent Burnout and Build Resilience for Optimal Health & Performance. 

Mark Lance

Finance & Company Secretary

Mark Lance

I helped Graham set up Jump in 2011 and it’s great to be involved in such a dynamic, growing business where I can apply my specialism in corporate compliance to ensure we are meeting our statutory and financial obligations.  I am an associate of the Association of International Accountants (for whom I also act as a quality advisor) and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators. 

Alongside Jump, I’m a director of Cornhill Group, a corporate service business in London advising the boards of businesses in a wide variety of sectors including shipping, energy, media and aviation, and I’m also a director of a global energy trader. 

Rob Metcalfe

PR & Marketing

Rob Metcalfe

Alongside Jump, I’ve been helping clients get their message across for over 30 years,
most recently as chief executive of Richmond & Towers, the longest
established public relations consultancy in the UK.  A Chartered Marketer,
I’m increasingly helping clients frame their message around sustainability,
particularly in food, waste and energy. The Guardian once described me as being
the “evil genius who got us all hooked on avocados”, a claim I don’t deny.

Since helping Graham get Jump set up in 2011 I’ve enjoyed communicating about a
subject where there is a great willingness among companies and individuals to
do the right thing,  but understanding what practical action to take isn’t
always obvious. 

Graham Simmonds

Chief Executive

Graham Simmonds

As CEO of Jump I lead a talented team of professionals committed to sustainability and wellness.  For much of my 35 year career I’ve been immersed in environmental issues, particularly how to engage people in practical action.  Previously I built Trees for Cities from start-up to a global, award-winning charity as its founding chief executive, and I loved developing new initiatives such as The Edible Playground and the Million Trees Campaign.  

In 2011 I set up Jump as I felt organisations large and small want to motivate action amongst their people around wellbeing and the planet, and a professional team dedicated to this purpose would help them accelerate their journey.  I’m also proud to chair the Reward Gateway Foundation which supports organisations and projects that address inequality and disadvantage, with the ultimate mission of making the world a better, fairer, safer and more equal place to work.