More piecemeal environmental policy making on the horizon?

Incineration tax could boost plastic recycling

Waste companies find it cheaper to burn rubbish than recycle it
Waste companies find it cheaper to burn rubbish than recycle itTIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE

A new tax on waste incineration is being considered by the government to help increase recycling of plastic and reduce the amount that ends up in the ocean.

Waste companies would have to pay a tax on every tonne of plastic they burn to encourage them to invest in new technologies that can turn plastic packaging into new products.

Less than half of plastic packaging is recycled and some types, such as plastic films and black plastic trays, are almost always incinerated or sent to landfill.

In the past five years the landfill tax has halved the proportion of waste collected by local authorities and buried in the ground to 15.7 per cent.

However, over the same period, the amount sent tax-free to incinerators has doubled to 10 million tonnes while the recycling rate has hardly changed.

Waste companies find it cheaper to burn waste than recycle it, partly because of the difficulty of separating different types of plastic but also because of lack of investment in the latest recycling equipment.

A Treasury consultation on using taxes and charges to tackle plastic waste closed yesterday and Robert Jenrick, the exchequer secretary, said an incineration tax was one of the options being considered.

Mr Jenrick said: “A number of submissions have advocated a tax on the incineration of waste. There is an argument for changing the incentives to discourage putting further waste to incineration. We would like to see less plastic incinerated, sent to landfill or exported and more recycled.”

He said the Treasury was also considering how the tax system could encourage manufacturers to use plastics that were easier to recycle and make products from recycled plastic.

Mr Jenrick confirmed that the government was considering a “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups. He met executives from Starbucks recently and discussed its trial of charging 5p for a disposable cup in 35 stores in London.

Early results suggest that a 5p cup charge is more effective than a 25p discount in getting consumers to bring their own reusable cup to a store. Only about 2 per cent of Starbucks customers claim the discount but this rose to 6 per cent when the charge was introduced.

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