The United Kingdom is planning to introduce a new national tax on all plastic packaging that does not include at least 30 percent recycled content.
As part of his 2018 budget presented Oct. 29, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said the government aimed to enforce the tax as of April 2022 to give businesses “time to adjust their behavior and manage any costs they face.”
The new tax will work “hand in hand” with a reformed packaging producer responsibility system (PPRS), which will aim to make businesses more responsible for the clean up and recycling costs of their packaging.
Plans for the new PPRS system are focused on encouraging the design and use of plastic packaging that is easier to recycle.
The government is set to launch discussions on both reforms “in the coming months.”
According to Hammond, future revenues from the packaging tax and packaging producer responsibility reforms will go toward investments to address single-use plastics, waste and litter.
“The tax will provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the production of packaging which in turn will create greater demand for this material,” said Hammond.
The chancellor went on to say that the so-called "latte levy," which would introduce a 25-pence levy on disposable coffee cups, was off the table at this point as it was not “effective in encouraging widespread reuse.”
The budget also announced the allocation of £20 million ($25.5 million) to tackle plastic waste and boost recycling, including a £10 million ($12.7 million) fund for more plastics research and £10 million for exploring new approaches to boost recycling, such as smart recycling bins.
Commenting on the budget announcement, Philip Marshall, head of PET research with consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said the packaging tax would face a number of obstacles.
According to Marshall, recyclate viability is already proving difficult to increase and reuse, due to the challenging nature of collection.
"If there is a greater demand placed on recyclate used within packaging production, due to [the] proposed tax, the cost of said packaging is likely to rise in the short-to-medium term,” he added.
Additionally, there are technical difficulties to overcome.
“To ensure 30 percent recycled PET is used in packaging in the first place, this material will need to be collected and reused — which still remains one of the biggest hurdles to overcome," Marshal warned.
However, Rupert Haworth sales and marketing director for chemical recycling company Recycling Technologies, welcomed the decision.
“This new tax and PPRS reform should stimulate new investment in plastic recycling innovation and capacity here in the U.K. and provide recycled plastic feedstock to the industry," he added.
Some 2.26 million metric tons of plastic packaging are used in the U.K. each year, with a vast majority made from virgin plastic, due to the low cost of virgin materials.
Earlier this year, the government ran a call for evidence on how the tax system or charges could be used to reduce single-use plastic waste.
The calls, according to Hammond, received an unprecedented 162,000 responses, showing strong public interest in tackling the issue.