The government has come under pressure to expand the threshold of its proposed plastic tax, amid claims it is not being ambitious enough.
Outgoing Chancellor Philip Hammond proposed a tax on single-use plastic containing 30% or more recycled content in the last Budget, in what the government billed as a world-leading crackdown.
But Defra, which controversially released the results of a consultation on the plans on Tuesday - as the result of the Tory election race dominated the news agenda - has been forced to admit there is fierce opposition to the level of the threshold.
Almost half of respondents to the consultation disagreed with the threshold. The vast majority of those called for it to be more ambitious, citing the fact many brands and retailers have already pledged to reach an average of 30% recycled content across all their plastic packaging by 2025 through the UK Plastics Pact,
Some respondents also called for the 2022 date of introduction of the tax to be earlier, though others suggested a later date of introduction could mean there would be more availability of recycled content, following reforms to the packaging Producer Responsibility regulations.
In its response to the consultation, Defra said it would “continue to consider which approach will best support the objectives of the tax while minimising administrative burdens”.
“The government acknowledges that many respondents sent information on products where they consider it could be challenging to increase the level of recycled content and will consider this carefully in designing the tax.
“The government acknowledges views that both the tax should be introduced earlier than or later than 2022. “The government recognises the need to tackle this problem as quickly as possible, which is why the tax will be introduced by 2022, incentivising faster and wider action than voluntary initiatives whilst also giving businesses time to adapt.”
Meanwhile, Defra also revealed the feedback over its plans for a bottle deposit return scheme.
Feedback from 208,000 responses revealed strong public backing for a so-called ‘all in’ DRS system including glass and plastic, with 69% in favour.
Former environment secretary Michael Gove has already indicated it plans to push ahead with the ‘all in’ model also including all sizes of containers, after he rejected plans for an alternative model targeting on-the-go recycling.
Gove said: “We know we must do all we can to protect our precious natural environment. There is a clear need to act to ensure we do not leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous and denuded of its natural riches.
“The measures in our Environment Bill will position the UK as a world leader, ensuring that after EU exit environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.
“As we have set out today, our plans will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.”