MORE than 1,800 cans and plastic bottles were collected by campaigners during litter picks in Somerset.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) carried out checks in various county locations last month (September), as the Government prepared to unveil the Environment Bill - which included plans for a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles.

The spot checks in Somerset, part of CPRE's Green Clean initiative, saw 768 plastic bottles, 1,100 cans, 347 glass bottles and 53 Tetra Pak containers collected.

And while the CPRE welcomed plans to include a DRS in the Bill, it warned against the potential 'watering down' of any scheme.

"More than one in four bottles that litter our countryside may not be included in the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) if the government buckles under pressure from industry," a spokesperson for the charity said.

The CPRE is urging the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material - to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying, which it says aims to limit the containers included.

The Bill allows for the creation of the DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced.

But the charity said the Green Clean provided evidence an ‘all-in’ scheme needed to be introduced, as under a limited scheme, millions of drinks containers would still end up littering the countryside.

Key stats from CPRE’s Green Clean from across England, include:

• A quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the ‘on the go’ DRS being pushed by key industries;

• More than one quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders;

• 7,500 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles3.

Additionally, more than 1 in 10 drinks containers collected were glass, a figure that does not include the shattered pieces of glass volunteers were unable to count.

These would all be left to harm people, and the wildlife, should industry succeed in excluding glass from the Deposit Return Scheme.

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, said: "It’s great to see the government include powers to introduce a DRS in the Environment Bill but as the results of our nationwide litter pick demonstrate, in order to be an effective deterrent to the high volumes of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes.

"To boost recycling rates for all drinks containers - cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and pouches - the only option is for the government to introduce an ‘all-in’ system.

"The industries that would be required to pay for the Deposit Return Scheme continue to try to limit its scope but we urge the government to prioritise the needs of the environment and society over corporate vested interests.

"As the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the publication of the Environment Bill earlier this week, it was encouraging to hear her recognise the benefits of the DRS in England being the same as the DRS being introduced in Scotland, which will be ‘all in’.

"This provides further hope that the government is listening as we make the case for an ambitious approach to tackling the problem of litter.

"But there is no time to waste so we hope the DRS element of the Bill will be a priority as the government takes forward this vital piece of legislation."

In Somerset, 26% of the plastic bottles collected were above 500ml, while 16% of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml threshold.

The full Somerset results are below (click image for a larger version - opens in a new window):

This is The West Country:

The Government says the Bill will 'tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time', including achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, improving air quality and 'restoring and enhancing nature'.

Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, said: "Our natural environment is a vital shared resource and the need to act to secure it for generations to come is clear.

"That’s why our landmark Environment Bill leads a green transformation that will help our country to thrive. It positions the UK as a world leader on improving air quality, environmental biodiversity, a more circular economy, and managing our precious water resources in a changing climate.

"Crucially, it also ensures that after Brexit, environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government, both now and in the future."