10 Apr What Next for single use plastic packaging – your briefing
With the announcement by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove to introduce the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) as a means to tackle single use plastic, the packaging and recycling industry can begin to see that tomorrow’s packaging landscape will be very different than today.
The Deposit Return Scheme has been announced as one of the measure to meet the ambition of eliminating all avoidable packaging waste by 2042. Using such incentives, evidence from Germany indicates recycling rates of 94% on PET bottles, cans and glass can be achieved. A Treasury consultation with plastics producers and the recycling industry is due to complete on 18th May 2018. From this, and in addition to the DRS, we can expect more measures to be announced this year with three mechanics identified offering potential at the moment.
- Tax on single-use plastic packaging
This new tax would directly incentivise the reduction of single use plastic and encourage alternative materials. It would drive innovation at the design stage where existing research shows up to 30% of packaging costs can be reduced. The tax collected would then be re-invested to increase recycling rates. This is a simplistic view which assumes plastic is always the worst environmental choice for packaging and does not consider the whole life costs. This would unintentionally drive consumption of less environmentally friendly materials which are not taxed. An example would be taxing plastic milk bottles and inadvertently promoting glass bottles for single use. Visit BPF to understand more about plastics values.
- Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging waste) Regulations.
The existing regulations required UK companies to demonstrate that a minimum level of recycling is being undertaken on their behalf to reflect the quantity of packaging waste they generate. The quantities are adjusted each year as recycling targets increase. The main failure of this system is the lack of useful re-investment in recycling infrastructure. The government and the EU both plan to review the scheme and are particularly interested to use taxation (compliance) to encourage the use of recycled content, avoidance of single use plastic and invest the tax in improved recycling quality.
- Landfill tax
The tax introduced in 1996 to encourage the reduction of landfill now stands at £88.95 per tonne. It has been successful in diverting an additional 65% of material away from landfill with most of this going to incineration. Being based on a cost-per-tonne of material, whatever its consistency, it has not encouraged recycling of plastics. A change of this tax system could be used by the government to encourage council and industry recycling on a wider scale.