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Call for evidence on plastic tax announced

Chancellor Philip Hammond has confirmed that he is considering a tax on packaging in a bid to tackle plastic waste.

The move was announced during his spring statement, during which he also said a £20m kitty from existing budgets would fund university research into more sustainable products and processes.

A call for evidence by the Treasury had been promised in the Budget in the autumn, and Hammond says he will now ask industry, special interest groups and the public on how best to reduce plastic waste.

Hammond said: “We must take bold action to become a world leader in tackling the scourge of single-use plastic littering our streets, countryside and coastline.”

Most observers anticipate a levy or tax on single-use plastic packaging, although the Government has not defined what would constitute single-use. 

An assessment of the value of deposit return schemes is already being assessed, which the Treasury says is beyond the scope of this call for evidence.

Hammond also said the Government would commit to invest in developing greener products and processes, funded from the revenues that are raised.

“As a down payment, Mr Speaker, we’ll award £20m now from existing departmental budgets to businesses and universities, to stimulate new thinking and rapid solutions in this area during the call for evidence,” he said.

Philip Law, director general of the British Plastics Federation, welcomed the call for evidence, and supported interventions that “encourage reusable and recyclable plastic, as well as measures that reduce litter and improve recycling”.

“The devil, of course, will be in the detail,” he added. “And we must not lose sight of the broader point that there are many positive uses for plastic in our society – from our hospitals to food security. We look forward to working with the Government, environmental groups and industry in the months ahead to find a solution that works and meets the critical challenge of reducing plastic waste.”

Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia UK and Ireland, said that a “vast proportion” of plastic is recyclable but is not being captured through the recycling process. More plastic had to be collected, said Kirkman, and manufacturers should use recycled content in their products.

“More than five billion plastic bottles that can be recycled easily are not even re-entering the supply chain,” he added. “The good news is that we seem to be at a tipping point. With the right policy conditions, manufacturers, consumers and the recycling industry can collectively start a new recycling revolution.”

More reaction here

  • Elements of this article first appeared on our sister title Packaging News

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