Reduction of single-use plastics has been in the news for some time.
Notable developments have included the 5p charge on plastic bags, the removal of plastic straws and cotton buds, and the use of re-fill stations to top-up water bottles, as well as David Attenborough's Blue Planet documentary about the hugely detrimental effect of plastic to the environment.
The plastic challenge is also in the news due to two new developments which we outline below.
The Government launched in February 2019 a consultation on the introduction of a new Plastic Packaging Tax. Statistics in the consultation suggest that over 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging is used in the UK each year, the majority of it being made from new rather than re-cycled plastic with the consequent greater environmental impact. The proposed new tax is intended to incentivise an increase in the use of re-cycled plastic content.
The proposed tax would take effect from April 2022 and would apply to businesses that produce or import plastic packaging which uses less than 30% recycled content.
The Government is seeking views as to the appropriate tax point, but the current proposal is that the tax would be paid by UK manufacturers at the point of sale or supply. It would also be paid on the importation of equivalent products released to the market.
No tax will be due for plastic packaging produced directly for export on the basis that it will not be commercially exploited in the UK.
If the proposed tax is introduced, UK manufacturers and importers would need to retain accurate records to demonstrate that their products contain stated amounts of recycled content. The proposed tax would be charged on the weight of the packaging product at a flat rate set per tonne of packaging material.
The Consultation closes on 12 May 2019.
Separately, the Considerate Constructors Scheme has launched an industry-wide campaign, "Spotlight on plastics and packaging", to raise awareness of the impact of plastic and packaging on the environment. The industry uses plastic in its working practices, but also in packaging, with 25% of construction packaging waste, being plastic.
The Scheme has set up a Plastic and Packaging Working Group to develop guidelines for the industry to monitor, manage and reduce plastic and packaging waste, and to share best practice.
The Scheme highlights some action that clients and contractors can take, including:
The management and control of waste is of course not new but these two developments demonstrate the commitment to reduce plastic packaging waste.
The proposed Plastic Packaging Tax follows European initiatives designed to protect the environment from plastic pollution, such as the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy which aims at ensuring that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be re-usable or will be recyclable in a cost efficient manner by 2030.