Plastic packaging tax

Updated 19th June 2022


The government implemented the Plastic Packaging Tax on 1st April 2022. It taxes producers of plastic packaging that consists of less than 30% recycled plastic.

Main points
  • Rate of taxation = £200 per tonne. (1)
  • Biodegradable and compostable plastics will incur the tax. (2)
  • Mixed packaging will be included if it is predominantly plastic by weight. (1)
  • Exemptions:
    • Manufacturers and importers of less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year. (1)
    • Exported goods, provided that they are exported in 12 months. (2)
    • Licensed human medicines. (2)
    • As transport packaging on imported goods. For example, packaging to secure safe transit of goods. (2)
    • Recycled plastic is only used for packaging where permitted under food safety standards and other regulations.


Would this tax be effective in reducing plastic pollution? On careful examination, this tax would seem to be unfit for purpose.

  • We calculated the taxation for plastic bottles. For a 330ml bottle, there would be taxation of 0.2862p. For a 1.5l bottle, there would be taxation of 0.652p. Such scant taxation wouldn't seem to provide much incentive to use recycled plastic and could easily be passed on to consumers.

    330ml bottle:
    Weight of a 330ml plastic bottle = 14.31g (3)
    Number of 330ml plastic bottles in a tonne = 1000000/14.31 = 69881.201956674 = 69881 to 0 dp
    Taxation per 300ml plastic bottle = 200/69881.201956674 = £0.002862 = 0.2862p

    1.5l bottle:
    Weight of 1.5l bottle = 32.6g (3)
    Number of 1.5l plastic bottles in a tonne = 1000000/32.6 = 30674.846625767 = 30675 to 0dp
    Taxation per 1.5l plastic bottle = 200/30674.846625767 = £0.00652 = 0.652p

  • The government claim that this tax aims to increase the use of recycled plastic. A system of recycling plastic is not ideal (see our article on recycling and our resource, The Life of a Plastic Bottle). Recycled plastic costs more than virgin plastic. Given the lack of movement to sustainable packaging by most businesses of their own accord, it seems doubtful that they would use more than the minimum requirement of 30% recycled plastic.
  • Packaging that contains less than 50% plastic by weight will not be included. Given the comparably low weight of plastic, this could potentially omit a lot packaging that contains plastic from taxation.
  • Why 30% recycled plastic as a minimum? Given the amount of plastic currently wasted, why not 100% recycled plastic?
  • As compostable and biodegradable plastics will also be taxed, there are no incentives to move away from plastics derived from fossil fuels. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we are to meet climate targets.


The Swindon Advertiser published our letter on this tax.

We wrote to both local MPs who passed on correspondence to the relevant government minister:

  • Correspondence with Justin Tomlinson
  • Here is that letter from Helen Whately MP:

    A reply is being composed...

  • Correspondence with Robert Buckland
  • Here is that letter from Helen Whately MP:

    Awaiting response...