Understanding the proposed UK Plastic Tax

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NOTE: Since this blog was published, the rate of the Plastic Packaging Tax was increased in April 2023 to £210.82 per tonne. From 1st April 2024, the tax will be applied at £217.85 per tonne

Government consultation for a proposed UK plastic tax closed on 20th August 2020.  With the taxation planned to kick in from April 2022, we thought we’d run through what this could mean for UK businesses.

Why introduce a plastic tax?

It is hoped that the tax will increase the use of recycled content in plastic packaging as it has a carbon footprint up to four times lower than virgin plastic.

Increasing the need for recycled content will also reduce the amount of plastic going into landfill or incineration and drive improvement in UK recycling technologies.

Who will be affected?

The tax is aimed at UK producers of plastic packaging, importers of plastic packaging, business customers of producers and importers of plastic packaging, and consumers who buy goods in plastic packaging in the UK.

This measure is expected to impact on up to an estimated 20,000 producers and importers of plastic packaging.

In a nutshell, if you are purchasing plastic packaging without 30% recycled content, you will be paying more as producers and importers pass the cost of the tax on to end-users.

Producers and importers of small amounts of plastic packaging will be exempt from taxation.

How is the tax calculated?

Any plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% of recycled plastic will be charged a tax of £200 per tonne.

Packaging which is not predominantly plastic by weight will be exempt from the charge.

How to avoid this cost

If you are using plastic packaging without recycled content, there is plenty of time to source a replacement with either recycled content or, potentially switch to a new solution altogether.  Low micron plastics, if appropriate for your requirements, can also reduce the overall tonnage of material used.

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

Polypropylene or vinyl tape – If you are applying the tape to corrugate you could switch to a water-activated paper-based tape. Self-adhesive paper tapes are also available or, you could consider a lower micron plastic tape.

Plastic mailers – Paper mailing bags are available, these are treated to repel rain and can keep your products dry in transit. You could also consider switching to either recycled content or lower micron bag.

Polythene products – items like pallet covers, bags and airbags can all be made with recycled content, a switch to a lower micron material can also reduce the tonnage of material used.

Stretch wrap – If you are using a machine stretch wrap, there could be an opportunity to switch to a performance film which dramatically reduces the amount of material required.

Bubble wrap – There is a high recycled content bubble already available, Sealed Air AirCap® HRC 200m Barrier-sealed bubble contains a minimum of 50% recycled plastic.  Paper-based protection is also widely available.

A point to remember about clear plastic packaging

If you are currently using clear plastic packaging – like bags, pallet covers or bubble wrap for example – it’s important to remember that the opacity of recycled content plastic will not be as clear as virgin material.

Regranulated plastic pellets, used in the manufacture of recycled material, can contain a mixture of colours, making clear polythene look “cloudy”. A dye can be added to the process, this can ensure some colour consistency.

Macfarlane Packaging can help you to source 30% recycled content plastic packaging or reduce your annual tonnage of packaging use.  Why not contact us today to find out more?

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