Tackling the plastic problem – government consultation document released

16th March, 2018

As anticipated, Chancellor Phillip Hammond in his spring statement on Tuesday, announced the publication of a consultation document, ‘Tackling the plastic problem’ to explore how changes to the tax system or charges could be used to address the problem of single-use plastic waste.

Building on the steps already taken by the government to begin to tackle this issue, including the recent ban on microbeads in cosmetics, the plan is to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.

The problem of plastic waste has really hit a nerve with the general public, but, as highlighted yesterday (15 March) by parliamentary think-tank, The Green Alliance, there is a risk of unintended consequences associated with rejecting all plastic packaging which could be counterproductive.

Plastics are a really good way to transport fragile food, if there is a ban do we risk increasing the amount of spoilt product? Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases, so reducing food waste is vital, if suitable replacements aren’t found this could be a real problem.

Key to the government’s strategy is investing in innovation, developing new, greener products and to improve our ability to recycle existing ones.

There is a note of caution here too, replacements for plastics that are produced from plant sources could cause pressures on land similar to those we have seen with the rapid increase in the production of bio-fuels. There is finite land on which to farm these products, leading to increasing deforestation. This would create more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which warm and acidify the oceans, not a result those of us concerned about plastics in the oceans would want to see.

There is no doubt however that the direction of travel towards greener solutions will, and should, continue, and those food producers that invest in innovative technologies to overcome the problem will be supported, possibly even in addition to the already generous Research & Development tax relief scheme already in place and available now.

We will, of course, keep an eye on further developments, but if you have any queries regarding R&D tax relief, or indeed about any other matters affecting your food and drink business, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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