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The government has opened a ten-week consultation on a Plastic Packaging Tax which, from April 2022, will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK containing less than 30% recycled plastic.

As part of chancellor’s Budget, revealed today, Rishi Sunak said the Plastic Packaging Tax will be charged at a rate of £200 per tonne where less than 30% recycled plastic is used in packaging.

Sunak said: “The government is committed to improving waste management, boosting recycling and reducing plastic pollution. Following consultation in spring 2019, the government will introduce a new Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022 to incentivise the use of recycled plastic in packaging and help tackle the scourge of plastic in the natural environment.”

Wrapping Robot

The government will also look to exempt businesses that manufacture or import less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging in a 12-month period from the requirement to pay the tax. This, the consultation says, will ensure the administrative burden and cost of collecting the tax are not disproportionate to the environmental harms the tax seeks to address.

Packaging such as pallet wrap will not fall under the scope of the regulations if it is used to transport imported goods – however where transport packaging is itself the good which is being imported, this will be subject to the tax just like any other unfilled packaging.

For exports the government does not propose allowing relief for transport packaging used on exports but welcomes views on a different approach where exported transport packaging could be offered relief, particularly where it is used on direct exports.

In regards to imported packaging the consultation says that this presents additional complexity compared to UK manufactured packaging due to the nature of the supply chains and the role of customs intermediaries such as agents, brokers, hauliers and freight-forwarders.

The consultation says that to provide clarity and certainty to businesses, the government proposes to tax imported plastic packaging when it is first commercially exploited in the UK. This means the first point in time chargeable plastic packaging is controlled, moved, stored, is subject to an agreement to sell, or otherwise used in the UK in the course or furtherance of business.

The consultation closes on 20 May.

James Nierinck, of the environment and safety practice at law firm Ashurst, said: “Today’s Budget announcement on the plastic packaging tax is a big step forward in the circular economy for plastic. As an innovative tax it should encourage the use of recycled plastics within plastic packaging. However, this is in effect ‘recycled’ news as it formed part of the 2018 Budget and as such is not a new announcement.”