With less than a year to go until the plastic packaging tax is introduced a survey by Veolia found that 83% of businesses asked were not aware of the tax.

The survey released after a Treasury technical consultation on the tax closed, found that the majority of the businesses asked, 84%, were in support of the tax.

The study, run in partnership with YouGov, surveyed 507 businesses and found that the two biggest drivers for acting more sustainably in business are government mandate, 30%, and environmental conscience, 48%.

First announced alongside the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy in 2018 the plastic packaging tax will come into force on 1 April 2022 and between 2022 to 2026 the tax is expected to raise £670m for the Treasury.

The tax will place a £200 per tonne levy on producers or importers of plastic packaging if they do not include 30% recycled content. Plastic covered by the tax includes bioplastics, including biodegradable, compostable, and oxo-degradable plastics.

The tax will not be chargeable on plastic packaging which has 30% or more recycled plastic content, or where the packaging is made of multiple materials of which plastic is not proportionately the heaviest when measured by weight.

This includes importers of packaging which already contain goods, such as plastic bottles filled with drinks, and where the imported packaging already contains other goods as the tax only applies to the plastic packaging itself.

According to an Imperial College London report, if all plastics were recycled then the UK could avoid contributing 61% of emissions and save 30 to 150m tonnes of carbon annually.
Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology, Veolia UK and Ireland said: ‘The plastics packaging tax is removing the economic burden of acting more sustainably and levelling the playing field for businesses.

‘In order to continue this momentum, we need to escalate the tax and roll it out across all types of plastics like construction, cars, furniture, and electric goods.

‘It is essential that we continue pairing our actions with the backing of policy. 84% of businesses we spoke to agreed and support the incremental increase to the plastic packaging tax.’

Certain exemptions will apply to the tax and these include plastics used in licensed human medicine, transport packaging to import goods into the UK, and plastics used in aircraft, ship or railway stores for international journeys as these are not released into the UK.

There will also be an exemption for businesses that manufacture and/or import less than 10 metric tons of plastic packaging in a 12-month period.

The tax is expected to have a ‘significant effect’ on businesses with the government estimating that around 20,000 manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging will be affected.

Helen Bird, strategic technical manager for plastics at WRAP, said: ‘The end market for recycled plastic is central to circularity and it’s positive to see that ahead of implementation, the plastics tax has positively impacted on demand. However, challenges remain. For some packaging it is practical to reach higher levels of recycled content, while for others, the roll-out of technological developments will be required to include any.

‘While we continue to export more than half of the UK’s plastic packaging waste, many businesses are struggling to secure enough recycled material to meet targets such as the UK Plastics Pact and tax obligations. We must continue to work together to drive investment to overcome these challenges and act more sustainably.’