Government moves forward with plastic tax

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Plastic policy: a Treasury consultation found strong public support to reduce wasteful plastics
Plastic policy: a Treasury consultation found strong public support to reduce wasteful plastics

Related tags: Plastic, Tax

The Government will move forward with suggestions to use taxes to reduce wasteful single-use plastics, after a Treasury consultation found strong public support.

The ‘Tackling the plastic problem’ consultation received 162,000 responses from members of the public.

Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick said: “I've been overwhelmed by the public support and the responses we've received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this.”

Policies will be introduced

Jenrick added: "Our duty to leave the environment in a better state than we found it is absolutely clear and what we've set out today is another important step to ensuring a cleaner, greener future for Britain."

In a foreword to the report, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said policies to tackle plastic waste would be introduced.

Hammond said: “We are committed to taking appropriate action through the tax system as well as through a wider Government commitment to addressing this problem.”

Support for voluntary measures

Andrew Tighe, at the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), one of the 222 organisations consulted, said the industry was already adapting to be less wasteful.

He said: “Voluntary measures are generally preferable to legislation and have already proved effective in changing behaviour.”

“The pub sector has shown leadership in tackling the issue of plastics in response to growing consumer awareness. The BBPA is supporting an industry-wide campaign to cut the amount of single-use plastic being used in pubs."

There have been some concerns businesses will suffer from an increase in costs.

'Detrimental effect'

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said a tax might nullify existing efforts to reduce waste.

“Efforts to reduce waste are welcome and steps to tackle environmental damage are laudable, but the major concern here is that a mandatory plastic tax will simply increase costs for businesses without having any discernible effect in tackling the problem.

“Small and medium-sized businesses will be particularly vulnerable to cost increases and many of them will find it difficult to absorb this cost or even pass it onto customers. UKHospitality and the BII jointly hosted a conference earlier this year, looking at ways in which the sector can continue to tackle the issue, sharing great examples of best practice.

She added: "The sector is already working hard to tackle plastic waste and we want to encourage businesses to do more voluntarily - but another tax on businesses may have a detrimental effect on existing efforts.”

Operating costs

Mike Clist, chief executive for the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) said taxes could see members' operational costs increase.

 He said: “The continued support from the public on single-use plastics is fantastic to see.

"So many BII members have led the way in pushing this issue to the top of the agenda with innovative policies such as free drinks in exchange for picking litter off the beach. We would hate to see their voluntary efforts go unrewarded by introducing taxes that would see a further rise in their operating costs.

"As we heard from industry colleagues at the UKHospitality and BII packaging conference back in May, the issue is a very complicated one but we need to recognise the efforts already being made on a massive scale by small businesses in the licensed trade," he added.

Potential bans

Hammond said some single-use products could be banned in time for autumn.

“We have identified several single-use plastic items that require more urgent action by banning or restricting their sale, and we will consult on banning the sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds, plastic coffee stirrers and plastic straws," he said.

Respondents suggested specific taxes or bans for single-use products including drinks bottles and takeaway packaging.

MPs called for the introduction of a ‘latte levy’ on single-use coffee cups in January, after the Environmental Audit Committee found around 2.5bn discarded every year.

Related topics: Legislation

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