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Worrying lack of awareness over packaging legislation

The vast majority of UK manufacturing businesses were still unaware of the Plastic Packaging Tax just days before it came into force on 1 April 2022, despite tens of thousands being affected.


The vast majority of UK manufacturing businesses were still unaware of the Plastic Packaging Tax just days before it came into force on 1 April 2022, despite tens of thousands being affected.

Under the new Plastic Packaging Tax, producers or importers of most types of finished plastic packaging (whether filled or unfilled) have to pay £200 per tonne of packaging that does not include at least 30 per cent recycled content.

Read our guide to Plastic Packaging Tax

A YouGov poll of retail and manufacturing companies in the lead up to the introduction of the tax found that 77 per cent were still unaware of it. Only just over a fifth (22 per cent) of those surveyed said they had already opted for recycled content in their packaging, although half said they supported a cost charge as an incentive to use recycled content.

Of the companies that had made changes to their packaging in advance of the tax:

  • 66 per cent have reduced ‘unnecessary’ or ‘avoidable’ plastic packaging
  • 58 per cent now use recycled content
  • 54 per cent have changed their packaging design to make it more recyclable
  • 39 per cent have chosen alternative materials to plastic for their packaging.

Gavin Graveson, Northern Europe Senior Executive Vice President for waste firm Veolia, which commissioned the research and has launched an online resource with further information, commented:

“The UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax is the right way to start getting businesses to push sustainability up the agenda. Not only could the UK save up to 2.89 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year if all plastic packaging included 30 per cent recycled content, it would also incentivise investment in domestic infrastructure which could make the UK a world leader in plastics recycling.”

In 2023, the Plastic Packaging Tax will also be joined by new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation for packaging, which will move the financial burden of dealing with plastic waste away from the taxpayer and onto producers.

Experts are urging manufacturers to treat these changes as an opportunity for competitive advantage rather than as a cost. Designing out waste from packaging can not only reduce material costs, but also significantly reduce a product’s carbon footprint and improve sustainability credentials.                                             

Funded support on packaging design is available to Greater Manchester manufacturers through the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub and through GC Business Growth Hub’s specialist Resource Efficiency Team.

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