News Release

UK taxation in isolation will not increase plastics collection rates

In response to HM Treasury's call for evidence on using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste, Wood Mackenzie Chemicals said there needs to be a bigger focus on behaviour change if current UK plastics collection and recycling rates are to reach the levels seen in a number of European countries.

The consultation, which closed for responses on Friday 18 May, aims to explore how changes to the tax system or charges could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics wasted by reducing unnecessary production, increasing reuse, and improving recycling.

Government does need to incentivise collection, through taxation or via other means, as the level of collection in the UK today is only 56%. The quality, and therefore yield, of the bale is extremely low, meaning the current system is extremely inefficient in its output. The introduction of a tax in isolation, however, will not produce the desired response, according to Wood Mackenzie Chemicals' consultation response.

Phil Marshall, Wood Mackenzie Chemicals Head of PET, said; "We continue to talk of carrot and stick but what is required is effective behaviour change. One of the best government incentives encouraging behaviour change has been the introduction of a speed awareness course, rather than three points and a fine. This has changed behaviours in drivers who have taken the course. A similarly creative approach to the misuse of plastics could propel real behaviour change. 

"Taxation alone is unlikely to increase collection rates, as there needs to be a better appreciation of how recycling works and the benefits of doing so. This level of education is one that should be spearheaded by government, who have access to the necessary funding and resources needed to make a lasting difference should they choose to keep this issue at the top of their political agenda."

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