The Treasury signalled that ministers are now seriously considering the idea, which is being demanded by The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign, following a consultation on how to use tax to tackle the use of non-recyclable plastic.
The consultation, which received an unprecedented response, could lead to action in this year’s budget – including moves first reported by The Independent to target the use of poor quality plastics by manufacturers with a new “plastic tax”.
Visiting a plastic pollution clean-up operation on Perranporth Beach in Cornwall, exchequer secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick said he was committed to reducing single-use plastic waste.
He said: “Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities, and we know the public is right behind us.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the public support, and the responses we’ve received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this.
“Our duty to leave the environment in a better state than we found it is absolutely clear, and what we’ve set out today is another important step to ensuring a cleaner, greener future for Britain.”
The consultation on the possibility of tax changes to stem the rising tide of plastic waste drew 162,000 responses, the highest in the Treasury’s history, expressing overwhelming support for action.
The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign has been pushing for action from businesses and government to solve the problem of disposable coffee cup waste, with the country throwing 2.5 billion cups away every year.
Although the government has considered the introduction of a latte levy – a 25p tax on all takeaway coffee cups – it was thought the ministers might shy away from such a measure.
The consultation is also thought to be moving towards using an existing system of pricing to supercharge the costs of using non-recyclable plastics.
Greenpeace senior plastic pollution campaigner Louise Edge said the latte levy on disposable coffee cups now seems inevitable, but that it should be just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Arguing that the record-breaking response was “a people’s plastic charter”, she said: “Public outrage over the issue of plastic pollution has been explosive over the past year or so.
“It’s hardly surprising when you see the impact of plastic on wildlife and our oceans, and when it’s clear that so many companies are still pumping out throwaway plastic with no regard for the damage it causes.
“People aren’t just getting angry, they’re getting active – and they’re demanding action from the government.”
Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm said he was delighted with the level of support.
He said: “This is a clear indication of the public appetite for more fiscal interventions to help reduce plastic pollution littering our environment, from inner-city streets and countryside to our oceans.”
The consultation is part of the government’s overall commitment in its 25 year environment plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.
The measures build on the recently announced £20m plastics innovation fund – to support the production of sustainable and recyclable plastics – and follows the £61.4m announced by the prime minister to be invested in tackling plastic in the world’s oceans.
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