What to expect from the new plastic packaging tax

What to expect from the new plastic packaging tax

One of the biggest changes to consider as part of your packaging strategy over the next decade is the UK government's Plastic Packaging Tax, which comes into effect in April 2022.

Our research found that, currently, less than a third (28%) of businesses are prepared to meet the UK's Plastic Packaging Tax. If you are one of the 83% that's not prepared, don't worry there is plenty of time and we're here to help make the transition simple. 

The Plastic Packaging Tax will apply to any business manufacturing or importing more than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year (including on finished products), as of April 2022. 

Businesses will be required to either prove that their packaging has greater than 30% recycled content, or pay tax at a rate of £200 per tonne. This tax is completely standalone from producer responsibility regulations, so will be an additional cost rather than a replacement of the PRN system. 

We teamed up with Martyn Hyde, Policy Leader at environmental compliance scheme Comply Direct Ltd, to provide you with the five key considerations for your businesses to ensure you're ready to meet the new regulations.

5 key considerations to prepare for the plastic packaging tax

1. Establish your liability

The first business to "commercially exploit" plastic packaging in the UK will be considered the liable party. However, due to the presence of joint and several liability for this tax, it is important that all supply chains identify whom should be the "tax payer" of the product handled. 

2. Identify the potential cost

Whilst the direct cost to liable parties whom cannot evidence 30% recycled content is £200 per tonne, there is also an indirect cost expected in the way of increased material/product prices as well as the administrative costs of measuring and reporting against the tax.

3. Consider how to measure / evidence recycled content 

HMRC has suggested several methods to demonstrate recycled content. Being aware of which methods best suit your business (and those which are most viable) will ensure you can gather the data necessary to demonstrate recycled content where it is achieved. 

4. Minimise, replace or remove where possible 

Where 30% recycled content cannot be achieved or demonstrated, businesses should look to either replace the material for alternatives, minimise the weight per item or remove the packaging altogether if possible to reduce costs.

5. Respond to consultation

The tax policy is currently undergoing consultation. Responses to the government consultation will be accepted until 20th August 2020. Parties likely to be impacted (either directly or indirectly) by this tax should ensure they communicate their views to the government, either directly or representation body. 

Download our latest research report the Future of Packaging: Covid-19 update here

Climate Change: UK government to commit to 2050 target

Climate Change: UK government to commit to 2050 target

On 12th June, the Government announced the new net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for the UK to be achieved by 2050. This world-leading target will bring to an end the UK’s contribution to climate change.

Everyone can play their part. Whether you are interested in taking action yourself or are a business, university, research institution or community, tacking climate change and driving clean growth is both a shared responsibility and shared opportunity.

Why act on climate change?

Climate change is happening, with human activity as the main cause. Climate change is a result of rising levels of carbon dioxide, and other gases such as methane, trapping the sun’s energy in the atmosphere and causing the planet to heat up – resulting in the greenhouse effect.

The higher the amount of greenhouse gases, the warmer the Earth becomes. As climate changes, the frequency of some extreme weather events such as heatwaves and flood in the UK are increasing.

What the government are doing

Last year was the UK’s greenest ever year with more than 50% of electricity coming from low carbon sources. The government is working at home and internationally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and maximise the economic opportunities for clean growth.

The government has committed over £3 billion to support low carbon innovations between 2015 and 2021 through the Clean Growth Strategy and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The UK has the biggest offshore wind capacity in the world, which is set to power a third of the UK’s electricity by 2030. When the sun is shining, solar panels can generate a quarter of our electricity and by 2030, 70% of electricity could come from low carbon sources.

Alongside other developing countries the UK also pledged to provide at least £5.8 billion of International Climate Finance (ICF) between 2016 and 2020, placing us amongst the world’s leading providers of climate finance. The ICF supports developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, reduce deforestation and pursue economic growth. ICF have given 17 million people access to clean energy and helped 47 million people adapt to the impact of climate change.

The government’s ambition, under the modern Industrial Strategy, is for the UK to be at the forefront providing low carbon technologies, innovating systems and services that will be needed as the world acts to tackle climate change. Already there are almost 400,000 jobs in low carbon businesses and their supply chains and, the sector has the potential to support up to 2 million jobs by 2030.

How you can play your part

Businesses and universities are important partners to drive the innovations we need for clean growth and tackling climate change.

Businesses have significant opportunities to reduce their own emissions and costs through reducing energy waste. Your business could make a commitment today to take action by looking at the following tips:

Prevent waste by reusing and recycling

Cut your energy use – UK Businesses could deliver up to £6 billion in cost savings by 20330 from improving energy efficiency.

Get a smart meter – Smart Meters will mean you no longer get estimated energy bills and can see exactly what you’re spending in pounds and pence.

Improve your buildings - UK Businesses could deliver up to £5 billion in cost savings by 2030 from improving their buildings

Review your vehicle fleet – Electric vehicles can offer fuel savings from 3p per mile!

Engage with your employees – UK businesses could save £600 million by making changes to everyday energy use by employees

Prioritise at Board Level – 38% of large businesses save board-level buy-in is an obstacle to investing in energy efficient power

Find out if your business can benefit from ‘green’ tax reliefs – Environmental taxes encourage businesses to operate in an environmentally friendly way visit gov.uk for more information

Understand the long-term risks and opportunities of climate change for your business – turnover for clean businesses increased by 5% between 2015 and 2015!

Source: https://greengb.campaign.gov.uk/#whatiscleangrowthandwhyactonclimatechange

The GreenDot® symbol

The GreenDot® symbol

The Green Dot symbol is displayed on over 460 billion packaging items but what does it mean?

In the EU, the Green Dot logo signifies that the packaging producer has, in line with the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC) and the notion of producer responsibility, contributed financially to the sorting, recycling and recovery of their packaging once it becomes waste. It does not mean that the packaging is recyclable or indeed that it has been or will be recycled.

It is recommended that the Green Dot® only be displayed on UK packaging if that same packaging design is used in European countries in which the Green Dot® is a recognised recovery system – the use of the same packaging design in multiple countries saves time and cost.

In Spain and Cyprus the Green Dot is a mandatory trademark for all packaging, which means the first business to place packaging onto the market must pay a licence fee and display the symbol on their packaging. 

The Green Dot® may have no significance within the UK, however, that does not mean that we can forget about it! Any producer who displays the symbol on packaging placed on the UK market is required by law to register for a UK licence.

The Green Dot symbol does not mean that the packaging it is applied to is recyclable. It does not have any environmental or recycling meaning; therefore, should not be used to bolster an environmental claim. Valpack have created the Green Dot Code of Practice for more information about how to use the symbol correctly.

Carbon Reporting Legislation

Carbon Reporting Legislation

On the 18th July 2018 the government announced that all large UK businesses will be obligated to report on company carbon emissions and energy use; in effect from April 2019.

Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) will replace CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme with a simpler reporting framework that builds on the existing mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by the UK.

In 2016 Government indicated that over £2 million of savings could be achieved annually on business energy bills through implementing cost effective energy efficiency measures.

Who is affected?

In terms of thresholds, carbon reporting will have to be carried out from April 2019 by all businesses in the UK who have one of the following:

  • 250 or more employees OR
  • Annual turnover in excess of £36 million and balance sheet total greater than £18 million.

Companies who meet these requirements will be obligated to report on their carbon and energy use since 2013.

The reason for these requirements and the ultimate benefit is that new Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) should allow an achievement of a 20% energy efficiency increase by 2030.

We can help

If your company does meet the threshold and you are looking for fresh ideas to help reduce your carbon, take a look at the Green Inventions section where you will find the latest packaging solutions to help reduce your company’s impact on the environment.

Packaging Waste Regulations

Packaging Waste Regulations

Packaging Waste Regulations

It’s not just us trying to reduce the amount of excess waste that goes into landfill, in 1997 the Government introduced packaging waste regulations for ‘obligated’ packaging producers, which aim to manage and reduce packaging waste in the UK.

More than 6,000 companies in the UK are classed as an ‘obligated’ packaging producer, it’s easy to find out if that includes you just by answering yes to these two simple questions:

  1. Did you handle* 50 tonnes or more of packaging material or packaging in the previous calendar year?
  2. Do you have a turnover of more than £2 million per year (based on financial year’s figures)?

*Handle means you:

  • Carry out one or more of these activities AND own the packaging on which the activities are carried out:
    • Produce raw materials for packaging manufacture
    • Convert raw materials into packaging
    • Put goods into packaging or put packaging around goods
    • Supply packaging to the end user
    • Import packaged goods or packaging materials outside the UK
    • Supplies packaging by hiring it out or lending it
  • Supply packaging or packaging materials in any stage in the chain or to the final user of packaging

If you are an obligated packaging producer you need to take these simple steps to meet the Government guidelines:

  1. Complete an annual data submission detailing the amount of packaging handled (you can contact your packaging supplier who will provide you with the weight per packaging type delivered the previous year)
  2. Register with the Environment Agency before April
  3. Calculate your obligation (this is how much packaging waste you will need to pay towards being recycled)
  4. Show evidence of the recovery and recycling of a specified amount of packaging waste with Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) or Packaging Export Recovery Notes (PERNs)
  5. Prepare an Operational Plan detailing how compliance will be achieved
  6. Submit a Certificate of Compliance and you’re done!

Read our useful green tips on how to reduce your packaging waste

Carrier bag charges: retailers’ responsibilities

Carrier bag charges: retailers’ responsibilities

Carrier bag charges were introduced in England on 5 October 2015 as part of the policy to reduce waste.

If you’re a large retailer the minimum price is 5p for most single-use plastic carrier bags. If you’re a small or medium-sized business you don’t have to charge, but you’re free to do so voluntarily.

If you’re already charging 5p or more for bags you don’t need to charge an extra 5p.

You must charge if:

You employ 250 or more full-time equivalent employees (in total and not just in retail roles). The number of full-time equivalent employees is the number of total hours contracted to work by all employees divided by the number of hours worked by a single full-time employee. A full-time staff member who worked all year counts as 1 employee. Part-time and seasonal staff, and those who did not work the full year, are counted as fractions of 1 employee.

  • Sell goods in England
  • Deliver goods to England

Companies with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees don’t have to charge. If your store is part of a franchise or symbol group (sharing a brand and products) you only count employees in your business. You don’t count the franchise or symbol group as a whole.Bags you charge for

A bag is considered as such if it has an opening and isn’t sealed. You must charge at least 5p a bag for carrier bags that are:

  • unused - it’s new and hasn’t been used previously for sold goods to be taken away or delivered
  • plastic
  • with handles
  • 70 microns thick or less

Charging for delivery bags

You should consider offering customers bagless deliveries, as you must charge for plastic bags used for deliveries and online sales. You don’t have to charge for sealed packaging as this isn’t covered by the charge.

The number of bags used isn’t always known until delivery takes place. This means you can charge for an average number of bags for multi-bag deliveries, as long as 5p or more is charged per bag overall.

Charges apply to both home deliveries and click-and-collect (or similar) collections.

Bags you don’t charge for

You don’t charge for plastic bags that are:

  • for uncooked fish and fish products
  • for uncooked meat, poultry and their products
  • for unwrapped food for animal or human consumption - for example, chips, or food sold in containers not secure enough to prevent leakage during normal handling
  • for unwrapped loose seeds, flowers, bulbs, corns, rhizomes (roots, stems and shoots, such as ginger) or goods contaminated by soil (such as potatoes or plants)
  • for unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades
  • for prescription medicine
  • for live aquatic creatures in water
  • woven plastic bags
  • for goods in transport, such as at an airport or on a train, plane or ship
  • considered as sealed packaging for mail order and click-and-collect orders (regardless of handles)
  • returnable multiple reuse bags (bags for life)
  • used to give away free promotional material
  • used for a service but there’s no sale of goods, such as dry cleaning or shoe repairs

A bag can contain multiple items from this list and not incur a charge. However, if the bag contains other items then you must charge. For example, you wouldn’t charge for a bag containing an unwrapped blade and unwrapped loose seeds, but adding a box of cornflakes means you’d have to charge.

Returnable multiple reuse bags

A returnable multiple reuse bag must be:

  • sold for 5p or more
  • returnable to the seller to be replaced free of charge
  • 50 to 70 microns thick
  • at least 404mm by 439mm (in either width or height, and excluding any gussets or handles)

Super biodegradable bags

There are no exemptions for biodegradable bags at present. However, the government is considering an exemption to encourage development of a new, genuinely biodegradable, more environmentally friendly bag. This would be introduced as an amendment at a later date.

Defra has commissioned a review of existing industry standards for biodegradability of lightweight plastics. It will review whether there are standards that could be used to introduce an exemption from the charge and, if so, how the exemption would be carried out. Defra has to submit the report to Parliament by 5 October 2015.

  • 50 to 70 microns thick
  • at least 404mm by 439mm (in either width or height, and excluding any gussets or handles)

What retailers have to do

For every bag that you charge for, you must:

  • charge at least 5p a bag (including any VAT)
  • make every effort to ensure that you’re charging for self-checkout bags
  • keep a reporting year’s records for 3 years from 31 May in the following reporting year
  • send records to Defra on or before 31 May following the end of the reporting year

You must also record for the whole reporting year:

  • the number of bags supplied
  • the gross and net proceeds of the charge
  • any VAT in the gross proceeds
  • what you did with the proceeds from the charge
  • any reasonable costs and how they break down

Sending records to Defra

It’s your responsibility to send records to Defra annually. You also need to supply contact details to Defra. You must send records to Defra by 31 May following the end of the reporting year.

Packaging Recycling (excluding food)

Packaging Recycling (excluding food)

Packaging Recycling (excluding food)

Although there’s no formal legislation to say you have to print information on to your packaging, (unless it’s food-related) to say what material it is, we think it’s good business practice to be help your customers recycle by including the appropriate packaging symbol for the material type.

For polythene these are:

High Density Polyethylene

Low Density Polyethylene


Any other type of plastic

And for paper, they’re:


Mixed paper (such as that found in magazines and junk mail)

Paper (letters, printer paper, etc)

Suffocation Hazards

Suffocation Hazards

Suffocation Hazards

The Toy Safety Directive stipulates that all toys and packaging associated with toys should comply with its safety obligations. There isn’t a coherent standard for warnings, so we suggest best practice is to print a safety warning notice along the lines of: “To avoid danger of suffocation, keep this wrapper away from babies and children”

Print Guidelines for Charity Collection Sacks

Print Guidelines for Charity Collection Sacks

Charity Collections Sacks are helping to divert tonnes of textile waste from landfill.

Here is the official guide from the Office for Civil Society to follow when creating your charity sack specification:

Should the person exempted organise and run its own property collection (e.g. clothes), as opposed to using a commercial partner, then the collection bags should have displayed on them the following:

  • The name of the charity;
  • The charitable purpose of the charity;
  • Registered charity number;
  • Landline telephone number for queries.

In addition to the above, should the charity be doing property collections through a third party the collection bags need to have a solicitation statement clearly printed on them in a font sufficiently large to be read by the mildly visually impaired. 

This guidance is for those with National Exemption Orders.

Source: charityretail.org.uk and gov.uk

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