On March 11, 2020, the UK government announced that it is moving ahead with the implementation of a tax on plastic packaging not containing at least 30% recycled content. First announced in October 2018 (FPF reported), the tax is now set to come into effect in April 2022 and “will provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the production of plastic packaging.” Plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content will be taxed at a rate of £200 per metric ton, and there will be exemptions for producers and importers of packaging in small quantities.

The tax is being met with mixed reviews from stakeholders. As reported by news provider Beverage Daily, the UK Food and Drink Federation has said that this tax will “penalize many food and drink producers who are bound by strict food safety rules affecting the packaging they use.” The group “urge[s] the government to rethink how money raised through this tax can be used to transform the UK’s recycling infrastructure and will continue to work with them on the detail.”

The non-governmental organization the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) welcomed the tax “in order to stimulate the use of recycled content, particularly at a time when economic uncertainties can impact the price of virgin plastic.” However, the organization said, “it should be recognized that there are types of plastics and plastic packaging where it will not be possible to achieve a 30% recycled content, and this is why under The UK Plastics Pact, the target relates to an average of 30% across all plastic packaging.” It calls for the income generated by the tax to “be used for research and innovation to unlock these barriers.”

The government published a consultation document and is accepting public comments on the tax until May 20, 2020.

Read more

UK Government (March 11, 2020). “Policy Paper: Plastic packaging tax.”

Oliver Morrison (March 12, 2020). “Industry ‘disappointed’ after UK ‘penalizing’ plastics tax confirmed.” Beverage Daily

Oliver Morrison (March 19, 2020). “UK plastics tax a ‘real boost’ for circular economy.” Bakery and Snacks

Keller & Heckmann LLP (April 16, 2020). “UK Seeking Input on New Plastic Packaging Tax.”