Packaging tax ‘failing to deter use of virgin plastics’


THE UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax has been branded a ‘failure’ by A Plastic Planet on its first anniversary.

The tax came into force on 1 April 2022 and affects an estimated 20,000 businesses across a range of sectors.

A recent Freedom of Information request from packaging manufacturer and consultancy Duo showed the tax was on course to beat its first-year target, generating over £200 million in revenue and exceeding the HMRC first-year target by more than £30 million.

However, campaigners A Plastic Planet said, “Far from being a sign of success, this shows that the tax has failed to deter the use of virgin plastics. You only pay the tax if you don’t meet the recycled content percentage so there‘s nothing to celebrate when thousands of businesses clearly prefer to continue using virgin plastic and just pay the tax.”

The levy is charged at £200 per tonne of plastic produced where less than 30% is recycled content.

In a letter to UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt, A Plastic Planet proposes that the tax be increased to £400 a tonne and the threshold of recycled content be increased to 50%.

“If the plastic manufacturers want to prove that there is any level of circularity in plastic, then let’s have a recycled content percentage that is meaningful,” added Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet.

A Plastic Planet is also calling for an independent auditing regime to ensure plastic producers are held to account.

Sian Sutherland said, “Getting the world’s first plastic packaging tax was a big win for campaigners but the devil is always in the detail. In practice, the tax just isn’t doing its job in deterring virgin plastic production.

“The rate is too low and thresholds are too generous. And the system allows plastic producers to ‘mark their own homework’ – to that extent paying the tax is essentially voluntary. Having put the tax in place, the government should now be brave enough to give it real teeth.”