We are very disappointed the Treasury has made public its statement of intent and said “..hopefully this is the beginning of the end for single-use plastic” without consulting the  packaging industry  and its customers, including the UK takeaway and home delivery sectors which will be seriously under threat as a result of such a tax on single use plastics.

Had they done so they would be aware the packaging industry and the major brands are seeking a solution for all consumption on the go which offers a longer a term solution rather than the government singling out individual items.  The UK’s waste management system has given the public  one of the best kerbside waste collections systems in the world but at the time it was developed the public consumed very little food and drink on the move. This has changed dramatically over the last 20 years and we now have an imbalance in our waste management strategy which needs to be urgently addressed.

The industry is actively seeking  reform of the funding mechanism of the UK’s Producer Responsibility system (Packaging  Recovery Notes) to enable both kerbside waste and on-the-go waste management systems to be developed to meet the demands of today’s consumer. This was raised at both the recent Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry into coffee cups and drinks bottles and with Defra. It’s important that the public understands that taxes will do nothing to deliver a long term solution to on-the-go waste. Indeed at variance with the carrier bag charge where net proceeds are given to charities, we believe a tax on single use plastics will simply disappear as extra revenue to a cash strapped Government and won’t provide much needed funding for the UK’s recycling infrastructure.

The Treasury believes the tax will drive the biodegradable packaging industry without promising the infrastructure that is so urgently needed required to make this type of packaging work. The tax is proposed in the name of marine pollution but the combined contribution of Europe and North America towards plastics in the Oceans is, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, around 2%. The Treasury also needs to understand that biodegradable plastics are no more acceptable in the ocean than non biodegradable plastics – our oceans are simply too cold for them to decompose.

We note Expanded  Polystyrene trays have been singled by the media so is the Treasury effectively introducing a fish and chips tax? The logic of the carrier bag charge does not apply, it is possible to buy goods and not need a bag.  Fish and chips however, like all ready to eat food, has to be served in something so a tax is simply a punishment for all those who enjoy fish and chips particularly those on lower incomes.  The Treasury has also singled out paper cups.  It would do well to acquaint itself with the funding of a major new recycling project that enables paper cups to be recycled with beverage containers from 1 January.

As a matter of urgency the Government must work with industry to deliver a long term, sustainable solution that will enable the economy to thrive post Brexit, will reduce litter and waste and ensure the UK is fully equipped to take its place in the circular economy.




Ends                                                                                                                                                                          19 November 2017