Chancellor to launch consultation on single-use plastics tax

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is tomorrow (13 March) set to announce a public consultation on the use of the tax system to reduce the use of single-use plastics, along with a £20-million innovation fund to help businesses and universities develop alternatives to the problem material.

In comments released in The Sun on Sunday (11 March) in advance of the full statement tomorrow — which in contrast to previous Spring Budgets will be a pared-down affair, as the government moves towards once-yearly Autumn Budgets from 2019 — Hammond announced that he will be launching a call for evidence from stakeholders on how fiscal measures can be used to tackle the issue of plastic waste.

Plastics have become something of a poster material for this government’s environment strategy, with the headline commitment in the long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan being a pledge to eliminate all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042, while Hammond floated the idea of a plastics tax during his Autumn Statement in November 2017.

Chancellor to launch consultation on plastics tax

Citing the success of the five pence plastic bag levy, the Treasury will be gathering evidence from environmental organisations, businesses and individuals on how the tax system can be used to reduce the UK’s reliance on plastics.

In comments appearing in The Sun, Hammond said the consultation will “gather ideas from manufacturers, retailers, green groups — and the British public — on how to bring about real change.”

He added: “We will be looking at a wide range of things, from new materials and more efficient recycling methods to changing set habits through taxes and charges. Far from adding extra burdens to business, this will be designed to incentivise innovation, stimulate creativity and unleash the great British entrepreneurial spirit.”

In order to facilitate a shift away from plastics, Hammond will also announce a support fund of £20 million for businesses and universities investing in research around alternatives to single-use plastics.

The news will be welcomed by those who have accused the government of not backing up its strong words on plastic waste with meaningful action, after Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) lambasted the government’s decision not to introduce a 25 pence levy on disposable coffee cups last week.

Previous to that, the EAC criticised the government’s response to its report on plastic bottle waste, ‘Plastic bottles: Turning back the plastic tide, with Chair Mary Creagh MP saying the government was ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue.

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