The body representing the UK’s food and drinks manufacturers has reacted negatively to a government decision to go ahead with a tax on producers to address plastics pollution.

In his first budget speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak confirmed yesterday (11 March) the UK will impose the Plastics Packaging Tax first suggested in 2018, much to the chagrin of the country’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

New in the detail is a plan to charge manufacturers and importers GBP200 (US$255.4) a tonne on packaging made of less than 30% recycled plastic, Sunak announced. “To tackle the scourge of plastic waste, we will deliver our manifesto promise to introduce a new Plastics Packaging Tax” from April 2022, he said.

“That will increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging by 40% – equal to carbon savings of nearly 200,000 tonnes.”

However, the FDF attacked the plan, asking the government to reconsider its decision.

In response, FDF chief executive Ian Wright said in a statement: “It is very disappointing that government has decided to press ahead with the plastics tax. This will penalise many food and drink producers who are bound by strict food safety rules affecting the packaging they use. We urge the government to rethink how money raised through this tax can be used to transform the UK’s recycling infrastructure and will continue to work with them on the detail.” 

Elsewhere from the budget, the FDF welcomed the government’s decision to extend the Climate Change Agreements scheme for a further two years as it seeks to attain zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Such agreements are voluntary and are made by UK industry and the Environment Agency to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide. 

In May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) produced a report called Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. The report, according to a government document, “responded to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets.

“The CCC recommended a new emissions target for the UK: A net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement.”

The updated target was then put into legislation in June last year. 

Wright at the FDF commented: “It is very welcome that the Government has listened to FDF’s call to extend the Climate Change Agreements (CCA) for two years. This will help businesses transition to the lower carbon economy we all want to see. The CCA scheme is essential in facilitating the industry’s pathway to zero carbon in 2050.”

Wright also said the UK’s food and drinks manufacturers have adequate resources in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, which is steadily taking a hold in the UK.

“The UK’s food and drink supply chain is efficient and well managed and manufacturers have robust procedures in place,” Wright said. “We will continue to brief government on emerging impacts as the situation develops.”