What does the UK 2018 Budget mean for plastic pollution?

Following the 25 Year Environment Plan by Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) under Michael Gove at the start of 2018, the Treasury called for evidence in March seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single use plastics waste. 162,000 people responded, which included individuals in addition to campaign groups and companies. “An unprecedented number of people have backed tough action against plastic waste”. In August 2018 the summary of responses was published which include the proposed next steps by government, see figure 1.

summary of responses

Figure 1. The ‘next steps’ outlined in the Treasury’s summary of the responses for the call of evidence to plastic pollution.

This budget was released at the end of October, and the BBC listed just four points that were relevant to the environment, two concerning plastic; a new tax on packaging; and no tax on coffee cups.

As for the nitty gritty of the budget, the only mention of plastic was:

  • “the government will introduce a tax on the production and import of plastic packaging from April 2022. This follows the government’s response to the call for evidence on tackling the plastic problem, which was published on 18 August 2018. Subject to consultation, this tax will apply to plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The consultation will launch in the coming months. Any resulting legislation will be introduced in a future Finance Bill.” (page 26)

Other taxes related to plastic pollution were:

The mention of landfills

  • the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2018-19 to increase the standard and lower rates of Landfill Tax in line with RPI, rounded to the nearest 5 pence. The change will have effect on and after 1 April 2019. The rates of Landfill Tax on and after 1 April 2018 are set out in [Annex A] (page 13)
  • the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2019-20 to increase the standard and lower rates of Landfill Tax in line with Retail Prices Index, rounded to the nearest 5p. The change will have effect on and after 1 April 2020. (page 26)
  • the government will set the value of the Landfill Communities Fund for 2019 to 2020 at £32.9 million, with the cap on contributions by landfill operators remaining at 5.3% of their Landfill Tax liability. (page 26)

The document states the increase in rates on the landfill tax will affect landfill operators and businesses.

  • Landfill Tax is charged on material disposed of at a landfill site or an unauthorised waste

site. As such, it encourages efforts to minimise the amount of material produced and the use

of non-landfill waste management options, which may include recycling, composting and recovery. (page 148)

landfill tax

(Page 58)

Soft Drinks Levy

This is only relating to movement between the UK and the Isle of Man. (page 150)

There was no mention of litter and no mention of recycling


I want to be hopeful about Hammond’s tackling of plastic pollution. In his speech he reiterated that the UK “must become a world leader in tackling the scourge of plastic littering our planet and our oceans”

I hope that as an expert and the designated Treasurer for our country that his idea that a tax in four years-time will transform the economics of sustainable packaging.

I hope that his expertise in economics and politics means that not creating a tax on single use beverage products does not contribute to more plastic pollution.

I hope that companies act before the legislation kicks in.

I don’t think I need to comment extensively on the results or lack of from the budget. Many NGOs and Green politicians criticised the lack of attention and action on single use plastics.

city to sealucas

I don’t think it takes a detective to work out the priorities of the UK government. As Caroline Lucas pointed out, in the same budget oil and gas companies are given a tax break. There’s more money in harming the planet, using up it’s dirty resources and polluting the oceans with waste than there is in cutting back and thinking ahead to a more sustainable future for all.






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