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Government under fire as it launches plastic tax consultation

The government has been accused of “delaying vital action” as it launched a consultation on the role taxes or levies could play in reducing consumption of single-use plastics.

The government said it will use the call for evidence, published as part of the chancellor Philip Hammond’s spring statement and open until May 18th, to “understand how further economic incentives can be effective in continuing to reduce waste from single-use plastics by reducing unnecessary production, increasing reuse and improving recycling”.

It will also explore how economic incentives can drive innovation. Hammond announced a £20m funding pot, from existing departmental budgets, to help “stimulate new thinking” to tackle plastic waste.

Whilst environmental groups welcomed the consultation, many said the government is not moving fast enough – especially in light of changes in Scotland, where plans for a deposit return scheme and a ban on plastic straws are already underway.

“It makes sense for the chancellor to be looking at ways of taxing single-use plastic,” said Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “The success of the plastic bag charge shows that a smart and well-aimed government intervention can change behaviour and greatly reduce plastic waste.”

However, there are “concrete steps ministers could take right now”, she added, “such as rolling out a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles or banning plastic straws, and they should get on with it”.

Last week, the government responded to calls from the House of Commons environmental audit committee to apply a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups. However, ministers seem happy with the way things are.

“We are pleased that major coffee retail chains are taking action to reduce single-use coffee cups by offering discounts to customers with reusable cups and are putting in place the infrastructure to ensure cups can be collected for recycling. The government would like to see this service offered by all businesses selling disposable coffee cups.”

EAC chair Mary Creagh said the government’s response shows that “despite warm words they plan no real action”.