Autumn Budget proposal to encourage recycled content in plastic packaging could be a game-changer

Dr Marcus Gover, CEO, WRAP

In tackling the complex issue of plastic pollution, WRAP has consistently said that any fiscal measures need to be part of a holistic response which aims to transform the entire plastics system in the UK. We have also long argued for incentives to boost the demand for packaging made from recycled content. 

Along with colleagues from INCPEN and the Advisory Committee on Packaging I led a series of high-level industry discussions on how to reform the current packaging regulatory system earlier in the year. As part of the comprehensive recommendations we submitted to the Secretary of State for the Environment, we highlighted that there could be a case for fiscal disincentives for virgin materials that would stimulate the market for recovered materials. 

I am very pleased, therefore, to see this reflected in the proposal from the Chancellor to introduce a new tax to all plastic packaging which doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content. This is aligned with the target in The UK Plastics Pact and could be a powerful additional lever to help achieve this goal. 

The proposal from the Treasury is a genuinely radical approach, and has the potential to be a game-changer, making the use of 100% virgin plastic the exception rather than the rule, and helping to ensure that we close the loop and move towards a genuinely circular economy for plastics. We look forward to seeing the detail in the forthcoming consultation, but we welcome this bold and innovative approach.

Members who have signed up to The UK Plastics Pact have committed to ambitious targets which will transform the plastic system in the UK. This includes a commitment to eliminate all problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025. To do this, we need to shift to a culture which considers reusability and recyclability much more in how we design, use and dispose of plastic. 

We have always been clear that government policy is integral in underpinning change and are looking forward to see how the Resources and Waste Strategy, in close alignment with proposed fiscal measures, will help to deliver the systemic change we need to ensure plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment.