Chancellor Philip Hammond today announced a call for evidence on plans to reduce plastic waste, including the possibility of a new tax on single-use plastic products and packaging.
In his Spring Statement, the chancellor announced the review would look at how to reduce plastic waste, including using alternative materials and how the tax system can drive technological and behavioural change.
“We recognise that we need to do more to reduce plastic,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson. “However, we need a comprehensive strategy which considers all materials and resources and sets out how the government intends to shift to a circular economy where all resources are valued and reused when possible.
“A plastics tax begs a number of questions such as the timeframe for exploring a tax, what ministers hope to do with the receipts, and the impact on consumers and businesses. We look forward to working with government on these issues.”
FDF chief scientific officer Helen Munday added: “FDF fully recognises that more needs to be done to reduce litter and drive up recycling across all materials, including plastics, and this needs to encompass increasing the capture of used packaging both on-the-go and in the home.
“We therefore welcome the opportunity to contribute to the government’s public consultation process and welcome the launch of the innovation fund to develop the technologies and appropriate approaches to reduce plastic waste.”
She added: “It is important that any financial investments be made where they can be most effective in driving change, such as reform of the current UK producer responsibility system for packaging. Additionally, it is vital that these innovations and other actions take full account of the important role of plastics in protecting and preserving food products throughout the food and drink supply chain. Plastics have become an integral part of ensuring food safety and help to prevent and minimise food waste, and those roles must be filled to ensure a safe, affordable, and sustainable food and drink value chain.”
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “It’s high time that Whitehall took decisive action to end the scourge of plastic waste in the UK. A consultation on using the tax system to drive a shift away from single-use plastic is a positive step forward, but unless it is followed by decisive action by The Treasury, our collective plastic addiction will continue to wreak havoc on the environment.”
The government is also going to look at the possibility of using fiscal measures to target chewing gum, amid reports it costs UK councils £60m a year in street cleaning.
Industry experts have warned the move would be draconian and could harm the dental benefits of gum.
“Chewing gum manufacturers will not appreciate being tarred with the same brush as plastic packaging, with this consultation into plastic waste in the UK,” said David Harris, senior consumer analyst at GlobalData.
“The majority of gum products in the UK are focused on providing oral health benefits; as such, an extra tax on sugar-free gum in particular could be a detriment to the nation’s oral health.
“Consumers, legislators and the industry do need to talk about the most effective ways of minimising chewing gum waste. Street waste is a genuine issue, and chewing gum is part of the problem. However, this broad consultancy focusing on taxation measures seems heavy handed, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not be the most effective way to tackle the issue.
“Taxation may be part of the solution, but simply adding cost to the price of a pack will not drive a significant change in the behaviour of consumers who are generating this street waste.”