Plastic packaging tax: Switch to sustainable choices

Sustainability Jun 01, 2022
Plastic packaging tax: Switch to sustainable choices

Every year, the UK generates more than two million tons of plastic packaging waste. Most of this plastic isn’t recycled or reusable, adding to the growing mountain of waste across the globe.

The government introduced a Plastic Packaging Tax on 1 April 2022, which it hopes will encourage manufacturers, customers and the entire supply chain to make more environmentally friendly choices. But what does it mean for you?

In this article, we explore what the plastic tax is, who will be affected, and some of the environmentally friendly alternatives to non-recyclable packaging.

What is the plastic tax?

On 1 April 2022, the Government introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax. The new tax sees companies that manufacture or import large amounts of plastic packaging in a year having to pay for the privilege.  

The Plastic Packaging Tax won’t affect everyone. It only applies to companies that manufacture or import over 10 tonnes of plastic packaging every year. If you buy or manufacture plastic packaging in bulk, you’ll be required to register for the tax and pay £200 for each tonne.

You only need to register and pay the tax if the manufactured or imported products contain 30% or less recycled plastic. If there’s a recycled content of 30% or more you don’t need to pay the tax.

Given how much plastic we import and use, the tax could raise millions in revenue each year. The government hasn’t said precisely what it’ll spend the revenue it generates on, but industry experts hope that the money will be used to make greener alternatives more attractive and affordable.

How does the plastic tax affect businesses?

Not every business will need to pay the Plastic Packaging Tax. The regulations are detailed, so you’ll need to do some research to understand if you do.

Plastic is a collective term that can incorporate several types of raw materials and plastic packaging components.. So how does the government define it? “Plastic means a polymer material to which additives or substances may have been added,” they say. 

They’ve produced a detailed guide that can help you identify whether you’ll need to pay the tax, so we won’t go into detail here.

If you’re liable for the tax, you’ll need to record the amount of plastic packaging you produce or import and pay the appropriate tax on it. You’ll need to pay this at the end of the year, as you do with your Corporation Tax.

The £200 per tonne may not sound like much, but for large businesses that use or produce a lot of plastic packaging, this can quickly add up.

Why is there a plastic tax?

The UK lags behind our European neighbours in the amount of plastic we use and consume, with most of this coming through packaging. The numbers are scary, with an average of 36 kg of plastic packaging produced every year for each person.

We use plastic in industrial quantities for packaging products. Whether it’s food packaging, consumer products, or clothes, plastic packaging leaves a massive carbon footprint and can do huge amounts of damage to the natural world.

Single-use plastics are the worst type of packaging materials and are discarded into waste. They don’t break down and can enter the food chain. Some plastics use recycled materials, but not all, particularly those imported into the UK.

That’s a situation that isn’t safe or sustainable for our planet, and so it’s encouraging the government is doing something – but they can’t do it alone. Businesses can play a leading role in transitioning away from plastic to more sustainable materials and reusable packaging, such as cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags.

The packaging tax is similar to the Carrier Bag Tax introduced in 2015, which sees us charged at least 10p for a plastic bag at supermarkets across the country. The success of this tax is a blueprint for progressive taxation that can help improve the planet.

Benefits of switching to sustainable packaging

During the cost-of-living crisis, businesses may be frustrated to be hit with another tax, but there are alternatives. Customers, environmentalists, and regulators all recognise the damage plastic does to the planet – and want options. Thankfully, they’re already out there, with a huge range of paper and cardboard-based packaging solutions suitable for all types of uses.

Businesses seeking to switch away from plastic can choose from durable, attractive and affordable alternatives. Here are some of the benefits of swapping plastic packaging for sustainable packaging choices:

  • Bold & Branded – Environmentally-friendly packaging offers designers the same level of control, with the bonus of custom white and kraft finishes. These hardwearing, textured finishes are a stylish choice for all brands who want to be bold.

  • Affordable & Effective – Plastic is so popular because it’s cheap, but this may no longer be the case with costs going up. In fact, if you order in bulk, sustainable packaging can be an affordable and effective alternative to plastic.

  • Custom designs – Designers love the freedom of plastic for designs, but sustainable solutions can be customised too. At Bundle, we offer a range of inks, textures and finishes to enable the creation of bespoke, custom designs.

  • Build a better brand – Customers are searching for planet-friendly brands, so offer them an alternative. Using recyclable packaging can become a source of competitive advantage and can be used to appeal to customers directly.

  • Biodegradable – Bundle’s environmentally-friendly packaging is sustainable and biodegradable. If you can’t recycle it or safely dispose of it, we won’t sell it. You can have 100% confidence that you’re doing the right thing for your customers and the planet.

Why switch to sustainable packaging?

The Plastic Packaging Tax is the first in what’s likely to be a concerted effort to shift customers and producers to more sustainable alternatives. Sure, you might be able to pay the tax, but the fundamental question is whether you need to?

There may be genuine reasons why you need to use plastic, and in those cases, this is a cost of business. But for many brands, there’s no better time to switch to environmentally friendly alternatives.

At Bundle, we provide recyclable and biodegradable packaging. You can choose from a range of boxes, mailers, tapes, stickers and more. Every item can be customised for your business and brand to provide a bespoke solution that’s 100% sustainable. Check out our range online or contact us to discuss your options today.