A Sunderland councillor has given his backing to Government plans which could see consumers pay a deposit on drinks bottles and cans which is repaid when they hand them in for recycling.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed ministers would introduce a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers such as plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans in England, subject to consultation.
The move aims to boost recycling rates and cut litter, and comes amid increasing concern over the issue of single use plastic waste, much of which ends up as rubbish polluting the countryside and oceans.
UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or end up as litter in towns, the countryside and the seas, officials said.
Some countries already have deposit return schemes which charge an up front deposit on drinks containers, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, that is redeemed when the empty bottle or can is returned.
Local councillors from all parties wrote to Mr Gove backing a full bottle and can deposit scheme.
The letter was written by Sunderland Conservative councillor Peter Wood and endorsed by others from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens around the country.
It said: “Like you, we do not regard tackling litter in our towns, cities, countryside and seas as a partisan issue.
“The communities we represent, whether rural or urban, want to see this problem dealt with as a matter of urgency.
“For drinks containers, whether cans or glass or plastic bottles, a solution is already in widespread use in other countries: deposit return.
“As long ago as July last year, you described deposit return as a great idea, and we agree.
“We would therefore urge you to commit to such a system for England, one that will work well with the system currently being designed for Scotland.”
Options for a scheme could include providing cash rewards for returning bottles and cans without an up front deposit, through “reverse vending machines” where consumers insert the container and get coins in return.
Mr Gove said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment - killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats.
“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.
“We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”
The Government said it would only take forward options from the consultation which demonstrate they offer clear benefits, are resistant to fraud, and where the costs to businesses, consumers and the taxpayer are “proportionate”.
A poll for waste and recycling company Suez found that 74% of people would be likely to return their plastic drinks bottles or cans if they had to pay a 10p deposit, which they could then reclaim when they returned them for recycling.