Imperial College London study shows benefits of plastic packaging tax

A member of Veolia's team collects plastic bottles for recycling following the London Marathon

A study undertaken by Imperial College London and Veolia has found that there is a significant environmental and financial benefit from introducing a plastic packaging tax.

With HM Treasury currently consulting on introducing the tax in the UK, the report finds that the tax will help to drive the circular economy, because it will make financial and environmental sense for manufacturers to use recycled plastic content.


It is currently proposed that a tax would be placed on plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled content, but the study notes that 55% of packaging would meet this stipulation without any tax.

But the tax would encourage those that use virgin plastic to switch to recycled content, or face the financial penalty of the tax. This would ultimately be passed onto consumers making their products more expensive than those that meet the 30% recycled content threshold.

The report also states that plastic pollution is caused by excess production of virgin plastic, and that by creating more demand for recycled plastic, less waste will be created.

Shaping the Circular Economy: Taxing the use of Virgin Resources has been written by Imperial College London Professor of Environmental Technology Nick Voulvoulis and Veolia UK & Ireland chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman.

Richard Kirkman said: “Moving from virgin plastics to using recycled alternatives is essential for the environment, makes long-term financial sense and reflects public expectations. A packaging tax is designed to set a level playing field for companies using recycled content and will enable an additional two million tonnes of packaging to be recycled in the UK.

“It is now up to government to go through with it and adopt this policy – a minimum of 30% recycled content in packaging. There currently is not enough material recycled to feed this desire – and that’s precisely the point – when the market demands it, we will invest and provide it, and the tax will accelerate this demand.”

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