The UK government has announced that from April 2022 there will be a new, world-leading tax on the production and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled content.
The tax is still under consultation to iron out all the details for example, “which packaging should be in scope of the tax, how to assess recycled content, and which businesses will be liable for the tax. The government is open to views on the best design options.”
Each year the UK uses over 5 million tonnes of plastic and packaging accounts for 44% of that. That’s over 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging each year, the vast majority made from new, rather than recycled plastic.
Information gathered by the government highlighted that using recycled plastic is often more expensive than using new plastic, despite its lower environmental impacts. With that in mind, there needs to be a shift towards economic incentives for using and producing more sustainable packaging, plastic or otherwise. Consumers too have expressed that, whilst sustainable packaging is important to them, cost is also a major factor. According to Global Web Index, “42% of U.S. and UK consumers say products that use sustainable materials are important when it comes to their day-to-day purchases” whilst 72% highlighted affordable products as important.
Increasing demand for alternative packaging
The demand for environmentally-friendly packaging materials has increased with the rise in consumer consciousness and changing regulations relating to combatting the effects of climate change. Which means, paper and alternative packaging manufacturers face increases in demand – the paper packaging market was valued at over £53 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach over £65 billion by 2024.
Paper is an obvious choice as paper packaging materials can be easily reused and recycled compared to other materials such as metals and plastics. Customisable to meet product specific needs, cost-effective, versatile, lightweight, and biodegradable, paper packaging has many advantages. Although some limitations are apparent with paper – it isn’t so ideal for the packaging of very heavy materials. So we can’t rely on paper alone to reduce our plastic packaging.
Sustainable packaging within the food and drink sector
The food and drink sector is one that has been thrust into the spotlight when it comes to sustainable packaging and it will be necessary for them to review processes and supply chains to address the use of non-recyclable packaging. It will mean staying up to date and showing regulators their compliance and could also mean changes to strategies, processes and even layouts of manufacturing plants.
Here at Westgate, we’ve developed our own sustainability promise to help reduce plastic waste which you can learn more about here.