Plastic bottles

The plans would charge a levy on virgin materials, which shoppers could only claim back if they recycled

Campaigners have called on the government to extend its plans for the plastic tax to hit consumers and companies when they use any new plastic materials.

The plans announced by the WWF and the Resource Association yesterday would charge a levy for shoppers who buy virgin materials, which they would only be able to claim back if they recycled.

Meanwhile a “new materials levy” would be targeted at companies manufacturing plastic goods, with a new report claiming the use of fiscal measures should go much further than the chancellor’s plans for a tax on single-use packaging, which is due to face consultation after last month’s budget.

It would also make the government’s proposed DRS system for plastic bottles, glass and other materials appear small scale.

Read more: Tesco teams up with WWF to make shopping both affordable and sustainable

The bodies argued the introduction of a levy on the use of virgin materials should see consumers refunded the tax when they hand back the used material. A materials levy would be introduced at the point of manufacture with a per unit applied to the purchase of the raw materials, similar to the recent proposed tax by Hammond on plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled materials.

The report is based on recommendations from independent consultancy Eunomia, with WWF and the Resource Association claiming it could revolutionise the UK’s recycling system.

“Our oceans are choking on plastic, 90% of the world’s seabirds have fragments of plastic in their stomach,” said WWF UK head of marine policy Dr Lyndsey Dodd.

“Despite the public outcry, more products are being made with virgin, or new, plastic than with recycled plastic. A new system is needed - where a levy on all packaging is used to reward those using the most recycled material - to incentivise the use of recycled material and support the target announced in the budget for a minimum of 30% recycled plastic in products. Nature is on life support, and we must act now to save it.”

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson added: “All parts of the resources supply chain have talked for too long in general terms about the need to boost demand for recycled material and use demand-pull measures to develop the markets to assist in reaching higher recycling targets.”

The plans come a week after Tesco and WWF announced a groundbreaking partnership with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket by 50% in a bid to make food more sustainable.