More investment in plastics recycling infrastructure is needed to tackle plastics pollution, but a tax on virgin polymera and shift to new materials will create more problems, plastics industry leaders have warned.
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) recognised that plastic pollution was an issue but said the material offers benefits in saving CO2 emissions, fuel use and food waste, and plays a key role in healthcare.
400 Philip Law BPF
Director general Philip Law (pictured), speaking at a parliamentary reception earlier this month, warned that taxing virgin polymers would not solve the problem and would “send the wrong message” to the public and business.
He argued that a tax would increase demand for recycled polymers but, currently, there was not enough to go around, which would mean the UK would have to import material.
Against the uncertain background of Brexit, Law said a tax this could discourage investment and damage competitiveness in the UK’s manufacturing sector.
He also warned of the danger of shifting to alternative materials that could have anticipated and unintended effects on the environment.
Instead, the BPF proposed a reform of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system to ensure that funds raised are directly invested in recycling infrastructure and developing new technology such as chemical recycling.
As part of PRN reforms, the BPF backed modulated fees to incentivise the use of recycled content and products that were designed with recyclability in mind.
Law said: “It seems that the positive contribution plastics make to society and the environment is becoming more widely understood in the political community, and the ongoing debate surrounding plastics is becoming more balanced.”
Resources minister Therese Coffey spoke at the event. She said the Government recognised that plastics can help the environment in many ways such as by reducing C02 emissions and food waste, and that it was not trying to eliminate plastic as part of its resources and waste strategy.
BEIS minister Richard Harrington MP also spoke at the event and said the plastics industry had a “huge future”.