Environment

Plastic pollution: Huge majority of Brits support tax on plastic packaging

A recent poll has revealed that an overwhelming majority of UK adults would prefer compostable packaging to plastic, and call the government to recognise the benefits of it in the fight against plastic pollution.

An overwhelming majority of the British public would prefer their food to be wrapped in compostable packaging rather than plastic, according to new research. 

The survey of 2,085 UK adults also found that 83 per cent would support a tax on plastic packaging, although 80 per cent clarified that the tax should consider compostable materials separately from traditional plastics. 

The government confirmed last March that a Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) will come into effect from April 2022. Current plans mean that the tax will encompass biodegradable and compostable plastics, but not packaging which contains more than 30 per cent recycled plastic content. 

The government are facing calls to adjust these measures in order to support the benefits of compostable packaging in the fight against plastic pollution. 

Baroness Bakewell, the Liberal Democrats Lords spokesperson for the environment, told the House of Lords on June 30: “It is of course a fine public policy objective to encourage the use of recycled rather than virgin plastics, as the tax attempts to do, but that single criterion fails to recognise a few facts of life.

“First, packaging that is to come into contact with food cannot be recycled, for food hygiene reasons. Secondly, plastic films are extremely hard to recycle and, even if they are recycled, are seldom if ever recycled into new films. The idea of a circular economy on such packaging is just an illusion.

“By contrast, compostable films can be an appropriate substitute and are more sustainable than conventional films from recycled sources. Compostable packaging can never contain 30 per cent recycled content because its destined end of life is to disappear completely in the soil, leaving no microplastics behind.

“The unintended consequence of the tax as it stands is that these innovative solutions are perversely penalised.”

Demand for single-use plastic has also increased dramatically since 2000, and more than half of Brits feel that consumption of the material has increased during the pandemic.

Daphna Nissenbaum, chief executive and co-founder of TIPA, which commissioned the research, said: “The plastic packaging tax is an opportunity for the UK to establish itself as a global leader in the fight against plastic waste. Yet it is failing to allow for innovative packaging solutions like compostable packaging which are essential if we are to curb plastic pollution.

“Compostable packaging offers a sustainable solution to things like food contact plastic films, which for many reasons cannot be recycled. Instead, they are removed at recycling facilities and either sent to landfill or incinerated. This poll shows clear public support for compostable packaging. It is vital that the Government listens to this and recognises the need for a separate tax system for compostable packaging”.

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