The Government invited views on a proposal for a new tax on the production and import of plastic packaging with less than 30 per cent recycled content. The new tax is intended to reduce plastic waste and encourage recycling.
- It is encouraging to see proposals that are designed to stimulate demand for used plastic packaging. The ambition to increase plastic recycling needs everyone to play their part, from manufacturers and retailers to the recycling industry. The LGA has long called for a whole chain approach to recycling and for responsibility to be shared across all the actors.
- Local government can only deliver on this ambition if the commitments in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) consultation are fully followed through. Producers need to pay true full net costs to councils for the waste they create. This funding must be additional to what councils are already putting into these services to deliver the improvement in quality and quantity that is required.
- Currently there isn’t a significant amount of recycled plastic going through the collection, sorting and recycling process. As a sector we would like further detail about the potential impact of this. In particular if there is any impact on the sorting activity that is needed at a MRF or if these products could lead to higher rejection rates when sorting. If this was the case these elements would need additional funding through EPR.
- Consideration needs to be given to the potential impact on future materials producers use for packaging. An unintended consequence of the plastic tax could be to encourage manufacturers and retailers to switch to compostable packaging. Councils do not have the infrastructure in place to sort and treat compostable packaging, and there is a real risk that compostable packaging will contaminate plastic recycling streams, ending up with both materials being sent to waste disposal.
- The government should signal its long-term preference for how we reprocess recyclable material and consider the incentives that might be required to encourage investment in the right infrastructure in the right place. A tax on plastic packages is a step in the right direction, but leaves the wider infrastructure questions unanswered.