Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Autumn budget, published today (22 November), made a flurry of environmental announcements, including confirming that government will launch a call for evidence on a “tax system” for single-use plastics.
The government will launch a call for evidence in 2018 to seek views on how a “tax system or charges” could potentially reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste.
This includes “packaging and bubble wrap, polystyrene takeaway boxes and throwaway coffee cups”, according to reports earlier this week, and builds on the introduction of charges for plastic bags, which has led to an 80 percent reduction in UK plastic bag use since 2015, government said.
From 1 April 2018, operators of illegal waste sites will become liable for Landfill Tax, it was also announced.
Those who continue to “flout the rules” will face what government is calling “tough civil and criminal sanctions”. This follows a positive response to the consultation announced at Spring Budget 2017.
In addition, the government is providing £30m extra funding over the next four years to help the Environment Agency tackle waste crime and reduce the harm caused to the environment and to legitimate operators.
Richard Kirkman, Veolia UK – “As a nation, we need to recognise the importance of recycling plastic to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or ending up in our oceans. After all, we fail to recycle almost half of the plastics bottles we use”
The government announced it will set the Landfill Communities Fund for 2018-19 at £33.9m, in accordance with the announcement at Spring Budget 2017 that the cap on contributions by landfill operators would be set at 5.3%.
The government will also freeze Aggregates Levy rates for 2018-19 at £2 per tonne but will return to index-linking the Levy in the longer term. Following consultation, the government has decided against introducing an exemption from the Aggregates Levy for aggregates extracted when laying underground utility pipes.
The Autumn budget document also announced a review on whether the existing fuel duty rates for alternatives to petrol and diesel are appropriate, ahead of decisions at Budget 2018.
Richard Kirkman, chief technology & innovation officer, Veolia UK and Ireland commented on the news: “We support any initiative that encourages more recycling; however, the real value will be realised if the tax revenue is spent on finding new solutions to tackle these ‘single use’ products.
David Palmer-Jones, SUEZ – “This is a vital step towards achieving a more resource-efficient society and encouraging producers to take more responsibility”
“As a nation, we need to recognise the importance of recycling plastic to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or ending up in our oceans. After all, we fail to recycle almost half of the plastics bottles we use.
“Therefore, we believe there needs to be a clear distinction between what is and isn’t ‘single use’ plastic, to help people make informed decisions. Clear labelling is key. For example, plastic bottles are not ‘single use’ if they’re recycled, whereas straws, takeaway food trays and plastic cutlery often cannot be used again.
“I’m a firm believer the solution to making all plastics easily recyclable lies in collaboration. At Veolia we want to ensure sustainability throughout the entire packaging supply chain by working with designers, manufacturers and processors to find sustainable solutions, while raising awareness with consumers.”
David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “We welcome any government initiative which seeks to drive down the use of single-use plastics in favour of more sustainable, recyclable, forms of packaging and products. This is a vital step towards achieving a more resource-efficient society and encouraging producers to take more responsibility.
“Policy and taxation changes are welcome if they can help reduce the use of virgin materials in favour of more sustainable, recyclable products. Taxation changes to help the environment need to be part of a wider policy that marries the protection of our precious natural resources with a modern, sustainable, industrial strategy.
“An extended producer responsibility regime should address all forms of resource usage, materials and packaging production, and their collection, reuse and recycling across the supply chain.”
CIWM chief executive, Dr Colin Church, commented on the budget announcement: “CIWM has worked closely with other key stakeholders in the sector to ensure that tackling waste crime remains a priority for government and that regulators are adequately resourced to tackle this rising crime of criminal behaviour that undermines the legitimate industry and blights the environment.
“By its own recent admission, the Environment Agency is struggling to keep up with the number of new illegal waste sites that are springing up and this additional funding is much needed.”
CIWM welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government will ‘investigate’ how the tax system and charges on single-use plastic items could reduce waste. Philip Hammond has spoken about the National Productivity Investment Fund, which provides an additional £23bn of investment over five years to upgrade the UK’s economic infrastructure for this century.
The fund will be extended for another year and expanded to be worth more than £31bn. “We are allocating a further £2.3 bn for investment in R&D (research and development) and we’ll increase the main R&D tax credit to 12%,” Hammond said.
“There is still a long way to go, but the Chancellor’s words sends a clear signal to businesses and consumers that plastic waste is under the spotlight,” says Dr Church.
“Taxes, deposit return schemes and other recycling incentives must be part of a wider review of how the UK applies the ‘polluter pays’ principle”
“Discarded plastic items in particular have become a ubiquitous and unwelcome symbol of the damage that careless consumerism has on the environment. With the tide of public opinion turning because of issues such as marine plastic pollution, it is encouraging to see that the government is willing to act.
“We all want convenience but we must do more to protect the environment from the negative impact it can have as a result of irresponsible design, poor management at the point of disposal, and littering.
CIWM believes UK governments must go further than this, however, as future policy on resources and waste is shaped post-Brexit.
“Taxes, deposit return schemes and other recycling incentives must be part of a wider review of how the UK applies the ‘polluter pays’ principle and what responsibilities should be placed on producers for the environmental impact of their products, right from the design stage, through the use phase, to the opportunities for second and third lives through re-use, remanufacturing and recycling,” added Dr Church.
“The business case for better resource efficiency and productivity becomes more compelling every day – big brands do not make decisions lightly but we see the likes of Unilever setting a zero waste to landfill target across its global factory network and Coca-Cola’s European operations committing to collect 100% of packaging to ensure no litter ends up on the street or in the ocean. Others must now follow suit and take consumers with them.”