The 2022 Plastics Tax: The Impact on the Food and Drink Industry

Aegg interviewed Barry Turner, Plastic & Flexible Packaging Group Director at BPF (British Plastics Federation), to find out his thoughts on the upcoming Plastics Tax

Aegg interviewed Barry Turner, Plastic & Flexible Packaging Group Director at BPF (British Plastics Federation), to find out his thoughts on the upcoming Plastics Tax, which will be introduced in April 2022.
Read on to find out more...

[Note: This new tax (£200 per tonne) will apply to plastic packaging produced in, or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic from April 2022]


Aegg: Can you please give a little background on the Plastics Tax and what it means to the plastics industry?

The intention is to drive increased use of recycled content, but this is a blunt instrument as there are many constraints such as supply and food safety requirements, driving additional costs into industry and therefore the consumer.
The key issue is timing. It would be far better to wait until the EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) infrastructure is in place (work is in progress and is expected early 2024), and for all plastics to be consistently collected for recycling, together with a better recycling infrastructure in place.

Life cycle of plastic bottles

Aegg: What stage is the Plastics Tax at now?

It is at primary legislation stage. Draft primary legislation has just completed a consultation stage this will be followed by secondary legislation later in 2021. The legislation needs to go through Parliament first before it can be enacted.

Aegg: What will the Plastics Tax mean for food manufacturers and retailers selling items in plastic packaging?

They are in a difficult position, having an obligation to consumers to use the most resource-efficient packaging that uses recycled content. There are no widely available solutions yet. Retailers and manufacturers where they can’t source packaging with 30% recycled content will need to look at mitigating costs, with further weight taken out of plastic packaging if possible without compromising packaging functionality.
Currently councils are collecting a third of all plastic from households by way of kerbside collections. Some retailers have started schemes to increase collection, such as:
Tesco introduced a trial to collect plastic film and send it for chemical recycling. This is the lightest weight product, most of which would have ended up in household general waste.
• Pets at Home introduced a scheme where they collect used pet food pouches and again send it for recycling.
• There are also other schemes in collaboration with Terracycle and also specific coffee brands have initiated a scheme to collect used coffee pods for recycling, which otherwise would go to household general waste.Pet Food Pouches

Currently there is a lack of suitable processes for the collection, sorting and recycling of food contact flexible film. However, new chemical recycling plants are now being built in the UK. (These are subject to the usual planning permissions). There are 2 of these plants already operating in Spain with another in construction in France (these countries benefit together with other European countries from already collecting flexible films and have done so for many years..
So, there are some solutions available, although the only way to overcome the Plastics Tax is when proper collections and the recycling infrastructure are in place.


Aegg: Do you think the Plastics Tax is a positive move for the industry?

I don’t feel overly positive in the way that this tax is designed. Due to the recycled content tax not reflecting the regulatory, technical or supply constraints that will prevent the use of recycled content in some cases It will increase the cost to the consumer (estimated at £200M) at a time when we are coping with Brexit and the economic ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be better to roll out the introduction as planned but not to apply it where regulations do not allow recycled content to be incorporated ; then introduce a more comprehensive system after EPR is in place in 2024 and when a more consistent collection infrastructure has been introduced and further investment has been made in UK sorting and recycling infrastructure of a type that can overcome current regulatory barriers to the safe use of recycled content.

Aegg: What would you like to see as a result of the Plastics Tax?

I would like to see changes to the application of tax and a more rapid roll out of plastic collections kerbside. Plus I would like to see more investment in chemical recycling, collection infrastructure, and sorting.
Perhaps the income from the Plastics Tax could also be used to help fund the collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure, to bring the UK more in line with other countries.

[Aegg’s Research & Development Team is working towards providing packaging solutions in light of the upcoming Plastics Tax. Aegg is currently working on a number of projects, including plastic food pots with 30% recycled material, which will be launched later this year.]

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