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Plastic bag charge to expand as the government outlines strategy

From: Packaging News

The government is to unveil a crackdown on the UK’s “throwaway culture” this week as it mulls over an extension to the 5p charge for plastic bags.

The move could mean that smaller retailers would have to implement the charge. Currently shops with fewer than 250 employees are exempt from the carrier bag charge.

A consultation on the levy’s extension is expected. The government claimed that the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags had contributed to a 90% reduction.

Barry Turner, plastic and flexible packaging group director at the British Plastics Federation said: “I’m not surprised by this development. You couldn’t keep having the charge applying to some retailers but not all. It would be more sensible if the charge was applied to all materials – paper, for example, remains exempt.

“The question is what do they do with the funds raised? We think it will be an opportunity that will be missed as the money could be directed to help us with issues we all need to work on, such as the challenges of litter and the lack of on-the-go infrastructure.”

The executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association, Martin Kersh, agreed that there should be a “level playing field” for the application of the charge and supported the elimination of the minimum retailer size threshold. He added that the same principle “must therefore be applied to the UK’s Packaging Producer responsibility system so that the threshold applicable is also removed to include all businesses placing packaging on the market, subject to being VAT registered”.

Kersh said: “We still stand by the arguments we put forward when the plastic carrier bag charge was originally proposed that an exemption for hot, ready to eat take-away food on hygiene grounds is fully justified. If such usage is not to be exempted then we urge government, in line with Food Standards Agency advice, to ensure the public is fully aware of the need to use a fresh clean bag when carrying ready to eat food.

“Furthermore, why is the VAT element of the charge not used to increase recycling? So far not a penny of this charge has been directed to increase recycling and we would like to see this changed with funds directed to developing an on the go recycling infrastructure.”

Media reports have indicated that Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the cabinet on Tuesday that the government was “determined to tackle the throwaway culture which plastics encapsulate”.

It’s understood that Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a speech tomorrow (Thursday, 11 January) marking the publication of the government’s 25 year plan, which will outline plans to tackle plastic pollution and single-use plastic.

The 25 year plan follows the Environmental Audit Committee’s report into disposable coffee cups, which recommended a 25p levy.

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