Plastics industry condemns UK plastic packaging taxation plans

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Photo by BPF BPF: Plastic packaging products cannot be substituted in the same way that plastic bags can without considerably increasing CO2 emissions

The British Plastics Foundation (BPF) has reiterated its position with regards to a plan by the UK government to introduce taxes for certain plastic packaging products, describing it’s a “seemingly quick-win, populist” strategy.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced during the annual budget on 22 Nov that he was initiating a call for evidence on whether or not further taxation should be applied.

The BPF, which had already voiced its concern over the move, published a statement on the same day, saying it was important that any interventions from government were “effective, evidence-based, maximise recycling and minimise the amount of this valuable and recyclable material being lost to the environment.”

At this point in time, the BPF said it did not feel that taxation is the best way of achieving this.

The presence of plastics in the ocean is an issue that is rightly concerning the public, noted the BPF, urging the government to “look at options that address the root cause of this global problem, rather than embracing seemingly quick-win, populist strategies.”

The BPF said it had extrapolated from available data and estimates that only 0.2% of ocean litter can be attributed to the UK.

Stating that a global initiative was needed to tackle the problem, the association said it was “hard to understand how taxing certain products within the UK will have any notable impact.”  

As the initiative has been compared with the plastic carrier bag charge introduced in the UK in 2015, the BPF said plastic bags and packaging products were not “analogous” and such comparisons were “not helpful”.

“Plastic packaging products cannot simply be substituted in the same way that plastic bags can without considerably increasing CO2 emissions due to increased food waste; an increase in the volume, bulk and weight of packaging; and an increase in the resources required to produce packaging from alternative materials,” the BPF pointed out.

Additionally, the association said the plastic carrier bag charge had failed to reduce general littering, which it said had increased since the introduction of the charge.

There are concerns within the industry that taxing plastic packaging products could result in negative environmental and economic consequences. 

Citing an unnamed study, the BPF said if plastic packaging was replaced by alternative materials it would result in 2.7 times more greenhouse gases emissions, the equivalent of 61 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents per year.

“A tax that ultimately increases costs for the consumer does not provide a viable solution to today’s issues. The UK needs a strategy to increase on-the-go recycling, a system enabling clear national communications and the enforcement of fines to make it universally understood that littering is unacceptable and irresponsible,” the BPF added.


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