A tax on the public to reduce plastic waste is unnecessary when the industry already has a better solution, says Martin Kersh
Latte levy, single-use plastic tax, deposits: whatever the name you use to describe plans to eliminate plastic waste, to-go packaging has allowed a major part of the UK hospitality industry to thrive over the past decade. With the public becoming more environmentally conscious than ever, it is currently the subject of daily media attention with its existence challenged even by the prime minister.
The industry uses packaging in one form or another both front and back of house. From guest amenities to pizza boxes and sandwich packs, doggie boxes, coffee and drinks cups, straws and cutlery, these items form a vital cog in our collective wheel.
However, something clearly needs to be done to ensure plastics do not end up in oceans, that we reduce litter and the hospitality sector plays its role in delivering a circular economy. With so much political and media attention, it is inevitable operators are questioning their usage.
The Foodservice Packaging Association agrees with the government that we need to act now to prevent environmental catastrophe in the future. We believe the aims of the proposals are right: to reduce litter and increase recycling. But we think that there are more effective, more sustainable and more environmentally beneficial means of achieving the same results – and we are talking to the government about them right now.
We have discussed a reform of the Packaging Recovery Note system, designed to enable businesses to meet their producer obligations by a charge on all those who place packaging onto the market to ensure it is recycled. This scheme is no longer fit for purpose but can be reformed relatively quickly to create more funding for recycling and at less administrative and financial cost to UK businesses than the methods proposed, and at no cost to the consumer.
This scheme must embrace more of the industry, with businesses paying more to fund recovery and recycling at the level needed to fulfil the government’s recycling targets, with higher legally binding targets on the way. It must now be fully transparent, so you have certainty that the funding from operators is used for collection and recycling and is not disappearing into government coffers. This provides far better value than administering a ‘latte levy’ or operating a deposit return system, and will help to create the much-needed, UK-wide, on-the-go waste-management infrastructure.
Why tax the public if industry has a better solution? Packaging plays a vital role in reducing food waste. When you are considering your plans, decisions should not be based on avoiding one material but on what is best to deliver food or drink to your customers for them to enjoy and consume safely with the least impact, particularly with respect to reducing food waste, eliminating litter and achieving more efficient recycling.
Martin Kersh, executive director, Foodservice Packaging Association