It’s going to be expensive: UK Plastic Packaging Tax comes into force this April

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On April 1, 2022, the UK will introduce a “Plastic Packaging Tax” (PPT). It will apply to all plastic packaging containing less than 30 percent recyclate and must be paid by manufacturers or importers. The tax of £200 (around €240) per metric tonne isn’t exactly chicken feed. It could increase the price of affected packaging by around 20 percent and have a noticeable effect. The UK PPT is further evidence of the immense pressure exerted by legislators in the plastics sector. There is no end in sight, on the contrary. The issue will continue to make rounds – and will not be limited to Europe.


The new tax on plastic packaging in the UK joins efforts by various countries to regulate the use of single-use plastics in particular.


Plastic tax in the EU

In 2020, for example, the EU Parliament launched a levy on non-recycled used plastic packaging. Since January 2021, this plastic tax has been implemented in EU countries. It amounts to 0.80 euros per kilogram of non-recycled plastic packaging waste generated in the respective member state.

At present, it is still unclear in many EU countries who will ultimately foot the bill. Last year, Germany transferred 1.3 billion euros of taxpayers’ money to the EU for the “plastic levy”. However, the traffic light coalition has already announced that the levy will have to be paid by companies in the future.


Details of the UK Plastic Packaging Tax

The UK has already created clarity in this regard with its Plastic Packaging Tax, transferring the tax burden to manufacturers and importers.

In addition, the plastic packaging tax is linked to the weight of the plastic used and the use of recycled plastic. This means that the tax only affects packaging

  • which, measured by weight, is predominantly made of plastic, and
  • where at the same time less than 30 percent of the plastic used is recycled.

Manufacturers and importers who place on the market or import less than 10 tons of plastic packaging per year are exempt from the PPT. This limit was introduced to avoid excessive administrative burdens.

Imported packaging is subject to the PPT regardless of whether it enters the UK filled or unfilled.


Aim of the PPT

According to the UK government, the aim of the Plastic Packaging Tax is to create a clear economic incentive for business to use more recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic packaging. It is hoped that this will lead to increased demand for recyclate, which in turn should lead to an increase in the quantity and quality of both recycling and waste collection. Incineration and land-based landfilling of plastic waste are expected to be reduced at the same time.


Consequences and outlook

The UK PPT will definitely make plastic packaging more expensive. The price increases could ultimately amount to around 20 percent. The effect will therefore be clearly noticeable and could lead to relevant changes in the use of packaging made predominantly of plastic.


Overall, it is clear that the issue of plastics remains at the top of the regulators’ agenda. The pressure is already immense and it continues to increase. Levies on plastic packaging will become increasingly established and will not be limited to the European area. The UN Conference on the Environment in Nairobi at the end of February 2022 set a further example in this regard by launching an international plastics agreement.

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