Will a tax on plastic packaging solve the problem?

The Treasury has promised to bring in a new 'plastic tax', and under these proposals, the tax will apply to all plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content which is manufactured in the UK, as well as unfilled packaging imported into the country.

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The initial consultation received huge public interest with over 160,000 replies no doubt due in part to what is now coined as the “blue planet” effect. Legislation on a plastics tax is muted for April 2022 and is expected to be included in the next Budget.

What are the environmental challenges for businesses?

Over 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging is used in the UK each year, and the vast majority of it made from new, rather than recycled plastic.

From a business point of view, it is how you are able to look at this long-term and commercial sustainability. With new and creative ideas appearing on the market every day from shoes made out of recycled plastic to mattresses made from plastic bottles e fabrics in clothing retailers, the marketing messages are loud and clear, but the reality for some businesses is the cost is too high to go green.

Production costs on more sustainable materials can be lower, but high transportation and energy costs may make that switch much harder. With clients including sustainability and green credentials as part of their selection process, each sector will have to work much harder to make sure their business model is aligned to customer or suppliers needs.

A few simple ideas to help us do our bit to help

We do not have to wait until the new tax comes into force, we can all make small changes right now!

  • Move from plastic to paper cups for drinking water in the office.
  • Look at shrink-wrap packaging alternatives/recyclable covers for your pallet shipments and distribution.
  • Review your energy supplier. There are a numerous green alternatives now on the market.
  • If you offer company car benefits, could a switch to electric cars benefit you? (Emission free and though may appear more expensive up front, they are more economical once the tax advantages are factored in).
  • Prefer two wheels instead of four? HMRC has a 'cycle to work' scheme that covers bikes worth over £1,000 - including electric bicycles.

Other ideas worth considering

Research and development tax credits are another way to help you shift towards greater sustainability. There are also innovation grants available.

Carbon accounting has been around for a few years and will become increasingly important as the country moves towards the goal of carbon neutrality in 2050. Starting to measure your businesses environmental performance now will not only set you on the right path for the planet, but also motivate staff and send a positive message to clients.

Reversing the damage of plastic waste and carbon emissions is a global movement with new hard-hitting headlines on a daily basis

We can all make a difference and even encourage our clients to join in! As a recent plastic free slogan said, now is the opportunity for all of us to “choose to refuse”.

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