The UK government is launching a public consultation on how to tax single use plastics, chancellor Philip Hammond told the Parliament on 13 March.
Delivering his spring statement, Hammond said the call for evidence was to follow up on “the vital issue of plastic littering and the threat to our oceans.”
As an incentive, the government is also planning to award £20m to businesses and universities to come up with rapid solutions during the call for evidence.
The government, according to Hammond, will look at the whole supply chain for single use plastics, including alternative materials, reusable options and recycling opportunities.
The money raised from the tax, said Hammond, will be used for technological progress and changing behaviours towards plastics.
“Not as a way of raising revenue, but as a way of changing behaviour and encouraging innovation,” he noted.
The chancellor also pledged that the government would invest in developing “new, greener, products and processes” with the revenues raised.
In response to the announcement, the British Plastic Foundation (BPF) welcomed the decision, saying "everyone in this debate wants the same thing: to reduce plastic waste so we leave the environment in a better place for generations to come."
"So as the experts on plastics we welcome this call for evidence. We support interventions that encourage reusable and recyclable plastic, as well as measures that reduce litter and improve recycling," said the BPF, but warning that the 'devil will be in the detail'.
"We must not lose sight of the broader point that there are many positive uses for plastic in our society – from our hospitals to food security," the trade body said.
Any material, the BPF added, that can be only used once – whether derived from plastic or anything else – has no place in the future and should be reduced.
Also commenting on the development, leading resource and waste management company Suez said called for having deeper and broader review of the situation.
"Piece meal bans on a few high profile items will capture the public’s imagination but we need to capitalise on that goodwill by having a broader and deeper review of what is sustainable and what is not, and how tax can encourage a more circular economy," the company said.
“Taxation and policy reforms above all should be used to incentivise change and drive innovation starting with design & manufacturer, rather than just focus on consumers when they are sold products wrapped in, or made of single use plastics," said David Palmer-Jones, CEO of Suez recycling and recovery UK.
Palmer-Jones recommended an extended producer responsibility regime "to address all forms of resource usage, materials and packaging production, and their collection, reuse and recycling across the whole supply chain."
"We need a full scale review of the taxation system for packaging that encompasses both plastics, paper, glass and card, including a review of the existing PRN (packaging recovery note) system if we are to achieve a more resource-efficient society and encourage producers to take more responsibility," he noted.
The drive to go ‘plastic-free’ in the UK gained momentum earlier this year as UK prime minister Theresa May called for eradicating “all avoidable plastic waste”.
In her 25-year strategy to protect environment, unveiled in January, May urged supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles.
A number of major UK businesses, including the BBC, the Eurostar train line, Pizza Express and Glastonbury music festival, have announced plans to scrap single use plastics in the coming years.
The Buckingham Palace also confirmed 11 Feb that Queen Elizabeth II, and Royal estates, have banned the use of plastic straws and bottles in response to a TV series Blue Planet II which highlighted the scale of sea pollution.