Plastic tax: does it go far enough to help protect the environment? Watch

Poll: Is the plastic tax enough to protect the environment?
Yes (15)
6.12%
No (230)
93.88%
University of Plymouth Guest Lecturer
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The government plans to bring in a plastic tax from April 2022. Specifically, food and drink companies will be taxed on plastic packaging that does not include at least 30% recycled content.

Significantly, it was announced that disposable coffee cups will be exempt from the tax. Coffee cups are constructed of a paper-plastic composite and are more difficult to recycle than individual materials.

Do you think the plastic tax goes far enough to help protect the environment?



Dr Andrew Turner is an Associate Professor in Environmental Science at the University of Plymouth. His research interests include hazardous additives in plastics, the recycling of electronic waste, the characteristics and impacts of marine microplastics, the environmental impacts of antifouling waste, lead in consumer paints, and heavy metals in consumer products. Recent research topics have been featured in the media and have highlighted how regulations on plastics and consumer goods are often outdated, inadequate or circumvented.
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Kinyonga
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Absolutely not. Besides all the other things that need to be done to protect the environment (including clearing up the plastic that's already there), a 30% tax in 2020 is neither enough nor soon enough. And if coffee cups are not going to be taxed because of the material they're made of, their current form should be banned. All plastic packaging should be completely abolished.
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cheesecakelove
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I think it is a start, but there does need to be more done to help the environment. I was surprised to read that disposable coffee cups will not be taxed considering how much waste they produce and a lot of shops and companies promoting reusable coffee cups.
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shadowdweller
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If nothing else, I don't see why coffee cups should be excluded when it's super easy for people to buy and use a reusable one; if anything that should be something that has more focus and that people are encouraged to do.
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
Absolutely not. Besides all the other things that need to be done to protect the environment (including clearing up the plastic that's already there), a 30% tax in 2020 is neither enough nor soon enough. And if coffee cups are not going to be taxed because of the material they're made of, their current form should be banned. All plastic packaging should be completely abolished.
If you abolish it then what? One of the main advantages of plastic is shipping. It's incredibly lightweight compared to glass etc which saves huge amounts of fuels and emissions.
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Kinyonga
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
If you abolish it then what? One of the main advantages of plastic is shipping. It's incredibly lightweight compared to glass etc which saves huge amounts of fuels and emissions.
What use of plastic are you referring to exactly? I had all that flimsy packaging in mind; stuff which could easily be replaced with recycled paper or some biodegradable material.
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CoolCavy
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Stuff like this increasingly turns me off a product design career. It's already incredibly difficult to design anything because of the existing red tape this just adds an extra layer. Yes plastic use needs to be decreased, yes it is overused in things like fruit packaging but it also has a place in design. It's non porous and tough so can transpirt stuff safely without worrying about water ingress that you have with card. It's lightweight which saves tonnes of fuel. People demonise plastic but it has a purpose. Until there is a better alternative for packaging you can tax it all you want but people aren't going to stop using it. To exempt coffee cups is not sensible either as this sort of use where there are alternatives is the stuff that should be targeted. So many people use those cups as well that it would make a large impact.
I am split over this, whilst I care greatly over the environment the consumer also has a role to recycle and the government has a job to create better recycling schemes. It's not as simple as plastics = bad.
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
What use of plastic are you referring to exactly? I had all that flimsy packaging in mind; stuff which could easily be replaced with recycled paper or some biodegradable material.
Stuff like milk bottles, cola bottle stuff like that, I agree with you about the *****y LDPE stuff you get on microwave meals and stuff and bananas
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notdyls
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nope. A tax will only do so much to curb usage, unless it's set at a ridiculous rate, which will be near impossible to get passed. My personal opinion is that we need to do more in educating people about the effects of plastic waste, especially at younger years as children are far easier to influence than adults. We've seen time and time again that some people are simply refusing to accept the truth, so the best we can do is make sure that the next generation does not think the same way as they do.
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notdyls
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
Stuff like this increasingly turns me off a product design career. It's already incredibly difficult to design anything because of the existing red tape this just adds an extra layer. Yes plastic use needs to be decreased, yes it is overused in things like fruit packaging but it also has a place in design. It's non porous and tough so can transpirt stuff safely without worrying about water ingress that you have with card. It's lightweight which saves tonnes of fuel. People demonise plastic but it has a purpose. Until there is a better alternative for packaging you can tax it all you want but people aren't going to stop using it. To exempt coffee cups is not sensible either as this sort of use where there are alternatives is the stuff that should be targeted. So many people use those cups as well that it would make a large impact.
I am split over this, whilst I care greatly over the environment the consumer also has a role to recycle and the government has a job to create better recycling schemes. It's not as simple as plastics = bad.
I don't know exactly what product design consists of, but couldn't part of your job be developing solutions and replacements for plastic that aren't as damaging to the environment. Our current rate of usage isn't sustainable. I agree that we may be targeting the wrong areas, but eventually we should aim for very minimal plastic consumption.
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by notdyls)
I don't know exactly what product design consists of, but couldn't part of your job be developing solutions and replacements for plastic that aren't as damaging to the environment. Our current rate of usage isn't sustainable. I agree that we may be targeting the wrong areas, but eventually we should aim for very minimal plastic consumption.
People are already looking into that stuff and there are strict regulations about plastic and electrical waste already. This is just virtue signalling by the government and a way to earn more tax. If they really cared about the environment they would have included plastic cups. The current use of plastic is not sustainable but a large part is down to the consumer. Don't consume it and then people wouldn't produce it.
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notdyls
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
People are already looking into that stuff and there are strict regulations about plastic and electrical waste already. This is just virtue signalling by the government and a way to earn more tax. If they really cared about the environment they would have included plastic cups. The current use of plastic is not sustainable but a large part is down to the consumer. Don't consume it and then people wouldn't produce it.
What if the tax revenues were spent on subsidies for developing green industries? Not all bad if you ask me. Do agree that it's not targeted very well though.
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Joleee
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we probably need bigger initiatives. but i'm just wondering, how many products will this affect and will it affect them significantly? like, are we starting from zero percent recycled material in most cases or from 25 percent recycled material? where is our tax revenue going btw?

i'm guessing the cost of said tax or the cost of new, improved packaging will be passed onto the consumer, which i guess we're all okay with? i'd rather them implement a meat tax tbh.
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Notoriety
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No idea, never heard of it, not capable of expressing any real opinion on it. Hope that honesty helps.
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
People are already looking into that stuff and there are strict regulations about plastic and electrical waste already. This is just virtue signalling by the government and a way to earn more tax. If they really cared about the environment they would have included plastic cups. The current use of plastic is not sustainable but a large part is down to the consumer. Don't consume it and then people wouldn't produce it.
Interesting you mention electrical plastic. This is supposed to be regulated because it contains hazardous substances, but much of it is being (illegally) recycled back into other consumer goods. That is, we're contaminating the recyclate stream.
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Charlotte LG
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I think that a tax on plastic is okay to an extent. Sure it may reduce plastic use and pollution a bit but it isn’t enough to reduce plastic pollution all together. I think one use plastic use should be majorly reduced. For example, it isn’t necessary to wrap fruit and vegetables in lots of plastic when you can provide paper bags which could be recycled more easily.
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(Original post by Joleee)
we probably need bigger initiatives. but i'm just wondering, how many products will this affect and will it affect them significantly? like, are we starting from zero percent recycled material in most cases or from 25 percent recycled material? where is our tax revenue going btw?

i'm guessing the cost of said tax or the cost of new, improved packaging will be passed onto the consumer, which i guess we're all okay with? i'd rather them implement a meat tax tbh.
The cost could be passed on to the consumer, but there are ways by which manufacturers and retailers can increase sustainability and recycling without additional costs. The classic case is black plastic food packaging. It's everywhere in supermarkets (takeout meals, meat, fish, veg) but black plastic cannot be readily recycled and is sent to trash. This is because sorting facilities cannot "detect" black plastics (it doesn't reflect the infra red radiation used to separate different types of plastic). By simply changing packaging colour (to clear, white blue...) can help to increase recycling rates (and avoid taxation).
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(Original post by Charlotte LG)
I think that a tax on plastic is okay to an extent. Sure it may reduce plastic use and pollution a bit but it isn’t enough to reduce plastic pollution all together. I think one use plastic use should be majorly reduced. For example, it isn’t necessary to wrap fruit and vegetables in lots of plastic when you can provide paper bags which could be recycled more easily.
Do you think that a tax would make manufacturers and retailers think about using more recyclable plastics, as well as alternative materials?
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(Original post by Notoriety)
No idea, never heard of it, not capable of expressing any real opinion on it. Hope that honesty helps.
If a plastic tax were passed, indirectly, on to consumers, would you object to it? Or would you feel that the manufactures and retailers should seek ways of using more sustainable materials to avoid taxation?
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mattgosling123
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Not enough in itself, but with the other schemes that are in place around the world it will make a noticeable impact (if it is abided to).
I wrote an essay on this topic for the Royal Economics Society 2018 essay competition (which was noted as 'highly commended'- I'm lowkey proud of that); if anyone wants a copy to read more on the subject, message me.
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