30 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

£150 per tonne packaging tax recommended

A plastic packaging tax should be set at £150 per tonne to drive growth in the use of recycled polymers in new products, according to a white paper produced by Imperial College London and Veolia.

A tax of £150 per tonne on packaging which is made of less than 30% recycled materials is recommended

The report suggests that this level is needed to give packaging with a 30% recycled plastic content a more favourable cost to that using 100% virgin plastic.

It also claims that price is “the key variable” in determining the amount of recycled material used, meaning financial policies such as taxes are key to increasing the use of secondary material.

The government announced in last year’s Autumn budget that it would consult on a plastic packaging tax which would see packaging with less than 30% recycled content subject to a tax. Responses were published on July 23 (see Letsrecycle.com story).

The paper – authored by Nick Voulvoulis of Imperial and Richard Kirkman of Veolia – puts the impact of a plastic packaging tax to consumers at 7p per household per week.

Richard Kirkman, co-author of the report and chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia UK & Ireland said: “Moving from virgin plastics to using recycled alternatives is essential for the environment, makes long-term financial sense and reflects public expectations.

“A packaging tax is designed to set a level playing field for companies using recycled content and will enable an additional two million tonnes of packaging to be recycled in the UK.”

Tax level

The £150 per tonne figure is reached through an estimation that the current price difference between recycled and virgin plastic is around £500 per tonne.

“A packaging tax is designed to set a level playing field for companies using recycled content and will enable an additional two million tonnes of packaging to be recycled in the UK.”

Richard Kirkman, Veolia

This cost would encourage packaging producers to change their practises, according to Voulvolis and Kirkman.

Mr Kirkman claimed it was time for government to doing more to encourage use of recycled plastic.

He added: “It is now up to government to go through with it and adopt this policy – a minimum of 30% recycled content in packaging.

“There currently is not enough material recycled to feed this desire – and that’s precisely the point – when the market demands it, we will invest and provide it, and the tax will accelerate this demand.”

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