Record numbers respond to consultation on plastic waste

Plastic straws could be outlawed under plans being drawn up by the government Picture: Julie Kemp

Plastic straws could be outlawed under plans being drawn up by the government Picture: Julie Kemp - Credit: Archant

A record number of people have responded to a government consultation on how the tax system can be used to tackle the problem of single-use plastics.

The Treasury said it has been “extraordinary to see the level of public interest in the issue” and reported that it had received 162,000 responses to its call for evidence on single-use plastic waste including suggestions from over 220 organisations. This is, it said, the largest response to a call for evidence in the Treasury’s history.

Writing in the foreword of a summary document on the responses received, Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “Over the coming months, the government will consider the most promising policies in more depth.

“This includes ideas to use tax to shift demand towards using recycled plastic in manufacturing, to encourage more sustainable design of plastic items and discourage those that prove difficult to recycle such as carbon black plastics.”

He also said the Treasury intends to examine ideas to reduce demand for commonly littered single-use plastic items, including coffee cups and takeaway boxes, and suggestions for ensuring the right incentives are in place to encourage recycling of waste that is currently incinerated.

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Mr Hammond said he will announce the policies the Government intends to take forward in the Autumn Budget and also said he is committed to investing some of the revenue raised from any new taxes to develop “new, greener products and processes”.

He added: “We are committed to taking appropriate action through the tax system as well as through a wider government commitment to addressing this problem. At the Spring Statement, I announced the allocation of £20 million to plastics innovation, and in June the first £4 million round of funding was opened for applications.

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“In April, the Prime Minister announced another £61 million investment in the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, tackling marine plastic around the world through research and improved waste management in developing countries.”

He said the Government had identified several single-use plastic items that “require more urgent action by banning or restricting their sale”, and that the Government planned to consult on banning the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, plastic coffee stirrers and plastic straws.

These policies will feed into the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, to be published in the autumn.

He added: “We are determined to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. By tackling the scourge of plastic waste, we can secure a cleaner, greener future for our country.”

Public awareness about the problem of plastic waste grew after David Attenborough’s groundbreaking series Blue Planet II was broadcast last year. and showed wildlife struggling to cope with discarded plastics.

In January, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee called for a so-called “latte levy” on disposable cups, after it revealed about 2.5bn were thrown away every year and were not able to be recycled easily.

It was also recently revealed that most plastic food containers sold in shops cannot be recycled.

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