From March to May this year, the Government opened a consultation to explore how changes in taxation could result in the reduction in use of single-use plastics.
HM Treasury has just released a summary of the responses - a total of 162,000 from members of the public - which is the largest number ever received for a consultation of this kind!
Appetite for change on environmental issues
This huge response is very encouraging from the point of view that there is real evidence of an appetite for change on environmental issues and tackling the problems with single use plastic. So what were some of the key responses that could direct legislation in the future? And what would Ecosurety like to see?
The consultation asked for feedback on a broad spectrum of topics from production of plastic products, to the consumption and disposal of plastics. Due to the huge amount of responses from private individuals, and from a range of industry stakeholders; from producers, waste managers, and environmental groups the feedback was very broad and varied.
There were clear themes throughout the responses:
- There needs to be continued efforts to move the UK’s waste management up the waste hierarchy, not only away from landfill, but more needs to be done to incentivise recycling over energy from waste. Continued/increased investment into the UK recycling infrastructure is vital.
- There should be a focus on reducing the amount of waste that is littered, focusing on the specific products that are commonly littered for example “on-the-go” packaging.
- The UK should encourage the production of products that are easily recyclable and should encourage the use of already recycled content in plastic products.
It is on these points that the government will explore using taxation as a means to improve the current situation.
Improving UK recycling infrastructure
Whilst it is really inspiring that so many people feel politically motivated by this topic, it is important not to forget that the Packaging Waste Regulations exist, with the very intention of improving the UK’s recycling infrastructure. These regulations already ensure that the “producer pays” for its part in placing plastic (packaging, at least) onto the market. It was really heartening to see that many respondents have not only recognised this, but that there is an extensive appetite for reform in the Packaging Waste Regulations.
Some of the suggestions included, but were not limited to:
- An additional levy on PERNs over PRNs to encourage UK recycling over export of waste plastics.
- Modulating fees to financially incentivise the use of recycled content and/or more recyclable polymers.
- Recovering more of the costs of managing packaging waste from producers.
Reform in the Packaging Waste Regulations
In our response to the consultation, Ecosurety encouraged any movement on “tackling the plastics problem” should avoid any additional taxation on plastics packaging for producers as this is already in place within the Packaging Regulations. Instead we believe any additional taxation should focus specifically on “single-use problem plastic products” such as nappies, cotton buds, disposable cutlery.
Off the back of the responses the government has received, they have said they will continue to explore proposals for using different forms of taxation to tackle “problem plastics”. We will have to wait to see what decisions are made on this and whether packaging is targeted.
Consultation to be released this year
What is certain though, is that the consultation on reform of the Packaging Waste Regulations will be released this year. With signs that there is real political appetite for it, this reform is a huge opportunity to create a transparent and effective system that encourages investment in the UK recycling infrastructure, so we are excited to see what the future holds.
When asked for his thoughts on the response publication, Policy Manager, Robbie Staniforth commented: “The sheer volume of responses received really does show how plastic-use has got to the top of the public’s agenda. It is encouraging to see the government is seemingly willing to address the public’s concern. We would urge the Treasury to speak with colleagues at Defra and BEIS to ensure a joined-up government-wide approach to tackling single-use plastics. Reforms by Defra to the packaging waste system and a deposit system for drinks are likely improve part of the problem. However, it may take a primary commodity tax by the Treasury to stimulate domestic demand for plastic recyclate. Either way, we look forward with interest to the Chancellors budget in the autumn.”
Anna provides key support for Ecosurety members across the batteries, packaging and WEEE regulations, with a particular focus on import and manufacture companies. Helping with data submissions, calculating obligations and making the nuances of the producer responsibility regulations understandable are all in a days work.
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