The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans has recently been gaining attention in the media. Campaigns such as Sky’s Ocean Rescue and the BBC series Blue Planet II have highlighted the scale of plastic debris in the oceans. It is becoming more evident that plastic debris can affect marine life through its consumption and the release of toxins. Evidence is also confirming the presence of microplastics in seafood sold for human consumption.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond announced in the Autumn Budget (22/11/2017) the intent to launch a call to evidence in 2018 to seek views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste such as takeaway cartons and packaging. The aim is to reduce the impact of discarded waste on marine and bird life.

The use of environmental taxes or charges can be successful in encouraging pro- environmental behaviours, a recent example being the charge on single use carrier bags leading to a significant decrease in consumption. Several environmental initiatives are currently being considered/ consulted on throughout the UK in view of changing peoples’ behaviours, such as:

  • DEFRA seeking evidence on how to reduce the dumping of takeaway drinks containers such as coffee cups through measures such as a deposit return scheme in England.
  • The Scottish Government planning to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans.
  • The Welsh Government are considering a disposable plastics tax.