Huge public response to ‘plastic tax’ but is action slow to follow?

Environmentalists are celebrating the mass participation to what was dubbed the ‘plastic-tax consultation’ in the largest response to a call for evidence in the Treasury’s history. Massively, over 220 organisations and 400,000 citizens have responded to the Treasury’s call for evidence on the introduction of tax or charges on single use (throwaway) plastic items. The Treasury has released today its analyses of the responses and the evidence received.

According to Luca Bonaccorsi, Director of Engagement & Communications at the Marine Conservation Society, who played a primary role in the public campaign: “This astounding response shows that the public cares deeply about this issue. Nearly half a million people have sent a message to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that can’t be ignored: single-use plastic must be reduced using taxes or charges. While we are pleased that the Treasury promises to address all of our demands, which included charging producers for throwaway plastic and using taxes to encourage recycling (i.e., making plastic which is difficult or impossible to recycle more expensive), we now run the risk of having to go through yet another consultation after the 2018 budget. We cannot afford to wait this long, implementation must happen quickly so we can see the start of what would be a huge societal change.”

According to Dr. Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “We are supportive of the Treasury’s conclusions, but we need to see the shift to implementation. The four key points of tax used to shift demand towards recycled plastic, encourage recycling through better design, taxes and charges for on-the-go items, and greater recycling of waste are all positive statements. The government however, states that it will ‘examine’ taxes or charges on specific items, but the Environmental Audit Committee has already made recommendations on, for instance, coffee cups. With an estimated lorry load of plastic entering the ocean every minute – time is of the essence.

The evidence from producers saying that they have difficulties sourcing recycled plastic highlights just how broken the system is, given that only one third of plastic food containers in the UK can be recycled. Brands and retailers say that they are responding to consumer demands, but we know that either consumers often have no access to alternatives (either because its not available or prohibitively expensive), or they are unaware that the product is not easily recyclable so do not make an informed choice (e.g., black plastic trays in supermarkets).

We certainly welcome the fact that the report acknowledges that items, where they can be, should be recycled rather than incinerated.”

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