UK not a leading green nation, says Keep Britain Tidy boss

An environment charity boss has said she does not believe the UK is a leading green nation, after receiving a royal honour from the Prince of Wales.

Chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, was made an OBE for services to the environment at St James’s Palace in the first major investiture ceremony since the March 2020 lockdown.

Following the ceremony, she said Britain is the “largest consumer of food and drinks on the go” in Europe, while also being the only country in the continent not to have a deposit return scheme to combat the use of non-recyclable items.

This would involve a recycling system in which consumers pay a small deposit for plastic and glass bottles, which can be refunded upon return to a shop.

Investitures at St James’s Palace
Allison Ogden-Newton with her OBE medal, following an investiture ceremony at St James’s Palace, London (Dominic Lipinski/PA).

When asked whether the UK, as the nation hosting this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, was a leading power in combating climate issues, she said: “Well, frankly, no.

“You know we are one of the few countries that don’t have a deposit return scheme in Europe, which we know would make a huge difference and I discussed with his Royal Highness just then.

“We know it would reduce the amount of littered bottles by about 90%.

“It was supposed to be introduced and it’s now been delayed to 2024 so that is one way in which the Government could really make a difference very quickly.”

Ms Ogden-Newton said that per capita people in the UK consume more than six billion plastic coffee cups each year which has “huge impacts” on the environment, and that plastic pollution has been escalated by coronavirus PPE being dumped in green spaces too.

Investiture at St James’s Palace
Mrs Allison Ogden-Newton is made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at St James’s Palace (Aaron Chown/PA).

She said the heir to the throne was “very enthusiastic” about the environment and told her he would support her plea to the Government to bring forward plans for a deposit return scheme in the UK.

She said: “We had a really enthusiastic chat – he’s very interested in helping us push the message home about needing a deposit return scheme, which is something that’s vitally needed and he knew all about the research that showed other countries had had huge success with it, and what a difference it would make the amount of litter.

“As I always talk about with Prince Charles whenever I’ve met him, he absolutely hates litter – he’s a really passionate advocate for anything that reduces the crisis that litter is causing in the environment.”

Keep Britain Tidy campaigns to reduce litter, improve local green spaces and prevent waste, and has run 20,000 ‘eco schools’ for children to learn the importance of the environment and how to look after it.

At the first investiture for 15 months, recipients wore face coverings and collected their insignia from a cushion in the Throne Room instead of having it pinned on their lapels by the prince.

There was no audience present and those being given awards were limited to one guest each, but the investiture was shown on large screens to those waiting their turn in the adjacent Queen Anne Room.