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‘Takeaway tax’ receives cautious welcome

Campaigners along with parts of the foodservice sector have welcomed the government’s decision to seek views on a tax on single-use plastic packaging.

In Wednesday’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government will launch a call for evidence in 2018 seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste, building on the success of the existing plastic carrier bag charge.

Dr Mike Barrett, WWF director of science and policy, said that any action to tackle single-use plastic was a good thing, but cautioned that “we must ensure any action is truly ambitious if we want to make the real difference needed to help save the planet”.

The announcement also received a guarded welcome from the Asian Catering Federation which acknowledged the case for what it dubbed a ‘takeaway tax’ on plastic. “We need to reduce the problem caused by plastics, which are polluting the oceans and poisoning our marine wildlife,” said Yawar Khan, chairman of the ACF, which represents the interests of 35,000 restaurants and takeaways in the UK.

“The 5p tax on plastic carrier bags has been sufficient to cut their usage by 85% so a new surcharge will not need to be excessive to bring about a change in customer behaviour,” Khan said, adding that restaurants should pass the cost on to customers rather than absorb it themselves.

The ACF is pushing its members to introduce their own ‘Tiffin Club’ whereby takeaways would charge a small deposit for providing a set of multi-use tiffin tins with a customer’s first order, which are then swapped on subsequent orders.

“Tiffins, which will eliminate plastic waste and keep takeaways warm, are an ideal opportunity for restaurateurs to introduce new, healthier options [and] authentic Indian sharing dishes, being demanded by customers,” said Khan.

The proposed plastics tax was less well received by the British Plastics Federation which said it did not feel that taxation was the best course of action and that any intervention from government should involve detailed consultation with all industry stakeholders associated with the supply of food and drink.