Chancellor promises tax to boost plastic recycling

Government will levy a tax on single-use plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled content, Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced today in his autumn budget statement.

The measure was described as one of a package of measures aimed at ‘tackling the scourge of plastic polluting our land and our oceans’ in the budget this afternoon (29 October).

Further detail on the proposal is to be set out in the forthcoming Waste and Resources strategy which is expected before the end of the year, but documents published by the Treasury indicate that it is likely to come into effect from April 2022.

Addressing Parliament this afternoon, Mr Hammond, said: “I said at the spring statement that we must become a world leader in tackling the scourge of plastic polluting our land and our oceans.

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivering his Budget speech (picture: Parliament TV)

“Billions of disposal drinks cups, cartons, bags and other items are used every year. Convenient for consumers but deadly for our wildlife and our oceans.

“Where we cannot achieve reuse, we are determined to increase recycling, so we will introduce a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic, transforming the economics of sustainable packaging. We will consult on the implementation detail and timetable.”

Producer responsibility

Additionally the government is to aim to ‘increase the producer responsibility for the costs of packaging waste’, including plastic, through reform of the Packaging Producer Responsibility system.

“This system will provide an incentive for producers to design packaging that is easier to recycle and penalise the use of difficult to recycle packaging, such as black plastics,” the Treasury documents indicate.

The Chancellor has however dismissed calls for a ‘latte levy’ tax on single-use coffee cups, claiming that a ‘tax in isolation would not encourage a shift from disposable to reusable cups’.

He said: “I have also looked carefully at the case for a levy on disposable plastic cups not just for coffee but for all types of beverage. I have concluded that a tax in isolation would not encourage a shift from disposable to reusable across all beverage types. I will monitor carefully the effectiveness of the action that the takeaway drinks industry is already taking to reduce single use plastics and I will return to this issue if sufficient progress is not made.

“In parallel my Hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will look to address this issue through the reform of the packaging producer responsibility scheme. Working across government this ambitious package reflects our ambition to rid the oceans and the environment of plastic waste.”

Incineration tax

In recent weeks, speculation has hinted at the possibility of inclusion of an incineration tax within the budget.

In its document published today, the Treasury has acknowledged the ‘important role’ played by incineration in waste management, but adds that an incineration tax could be considered at a later date, if ‘should wider policies not deliver the government’s waste ambition’.

“It will consider the introduction of a tax on the incineration of waste, in conjunction with landfill tax, taking account of the possible impacts on local authorities,” the Treasury has stated.

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