As the UK government lays out its plans to levy a tax on packaging that contains non-recycled plastics, what are your plans to avoid the measures?

At Budget 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced the introduction of a ‘world-leading’ new plastic packaging tax on the production and import of all plastic packaging. From April 2022, any plastic packaging with insufficient recycled plastic content will be subject to the new charges.

In his budget speech to parliament, the Chancellor stated,

“… we must become a world leader in tackling the scourge of plastic littering our planet and our oceans.

Billions of disposable plastic drinks cups, cartons, bags and other items are used every year in Britain…convenient for consumers, but deadly for our wildlife and our oceans.

Where we cannot achieve re-use, we are determined to increase recycling; so we will introduce a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled plastic, transforming the economics of sustainable packaging.”

The state of plastic packaging in the UK

Plastic packaging accounts for a massive 44% of plastic used, and a colossal 67% of plastic waste in the UK. Over 2 million tonnes of plastic is used in the UK every single year. That’s around 76kg of plastic waste per person per year!

The vast majority of this packaging is made from virgin plastic which has a far greater environmental impact than recycled plastic.

New plastic requires unnecessary extraction and processing of resources which uses more energy and produces more emissions. It also causes the enormous quantity of plastic waste in landfill or incineration plants that is leading to the crisis in our oceans and rivers.

However, as recycled plastic is currently more expensive to use than its virgin counterpart, businesses are often discouraged from making the switch.

Environment vs. bottom line

Businesses are generally lured away from the environmental benefits of recycled plastics by their impact on the bottom line. By introducing a plastic packaging tax on virgin plastics, the key objective is to make the use of recycled plastics the more economically viable option, thereby increasing their use in the production of plastic packaging, and reducing plastic waste.

Packaging Producer Responsibility regulations

The plans to introduce this new tax on virgin plastic packaging complement the recommendations for reforming the Plastic Producer Responsibility regulations.

If a business or organisation produces or uses packaging, or sells packaged goods, they can be classed as an ‘obligated packaging producer’ and be required to abide to rules which aim to:

  • reduce the amount of packaging produced in the first place
  • reduce how much packaging waste goes to landfill
  • increase the amount of packaging waste that’s recycled and recovered

This is in addition to the duty of care rules that all UK businesses must follow when dealing with waste.

A shift in packaging trends

At Tagit, we deal with hundreds of Obligated Packaging Producers, all striving to do everything they possibly can to help prevent, reuse, recycle, and recover their waste packaging.

In the jewellery and accessory industry in which we specialise, our customers have historically opted for injection moulded plastic hangers for their belts, gloves, scarves and even footwear.

Over the last few years, we’ve noticed a definite shift in thinking when it comes to new packaging projects, with many of our customers exploring more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic.

Is your business prepared for the plastic packaging tax?

How will the plastic packaging tax impact your business?

As the UK government moves into the consultation phase of its plastic packaging tax introduction, the guidelines remain unclear as to the amount of recycled plastic required within packaging in order to avoid the tax.

Current proposals state that the tax would only apply to plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. However, until they complete the consultation, and set the appropriate legislation, the scope of the tax remains open.

For many businesses, the uncertainty of what the tax will involve, and how it will be regulated, is driving them to seek alternatives to their current packaging sooner rather than later.

Major retailers are choosing to move their entire plastic packaging range to FSC and recyclable materials now before the final legislation comes into force.

How can you prepare for the plastic packaging tax?

If you want to avoid the potential pitfalls of the upcoming plastic packaging tax, and lessen your impact on the environment as an added bonus, get in touch. We’re always happy to help.

James Rowland is the Managing Director of Tagit Ltd, which he co-founded in 1996. His passion for all things related to design and packaging came from working in the art department of a packaging firm after leaving school in the late 80s. He taught himself to run the litho printers and die cutting machinery, and built up the production arm of the UK business. James’ entire career has been centred around the innovation, design and production of jewellery and accessory packaging, which is why Tagit attracts and retains clients around the globe. James cares deeply for the environment and has made it his mission to offer the best recyclable and sustainable packaging solutions for his customers, even if it affects the profitability of Tagit.