The UK is anticipating a step forward for the environment. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced last week in his budget statement that the government is considering a tax on single-use plastics like to-go boxes and packaging, much to the chagrin of several business sectors and the hoorah of environmentalists. The tax would aim to address the huge plastic problem that the planet faces.
According to the Guardian, the oceans get bombarded with roughly twelve million tons of plastic every year. That calculates into over one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals that die annually from getting caught in or swallowing plastics.
Dr. Mike Barrett, World Wildlife Foundation’s director of science and policy, said: “Too often birds, fish, turtles, and whales are found dead having eaten plastic. Plastic is suffocating our seas. There is no greater example of the havoc we have on the natural world. Any action to tackle single-use plastic is a good thing, but we must ensure any action is truly ambitious if we want to make the real difference needed to help save the planet.” Single-use plastics refer to packaging and bubble wrap, polystyrene takeaway boxes and throwaway coffee cups, among others.
Tisha Brown, a representative for Greenpeace UK, said of plastic: “It’s in whales, turtles and 90 percent of seabirds, and it’s been found in our salt, our tap water, and even our beer.”
The UK has already seen success from one such tax. Since a five pence tax was put on plastic bags in 2015, an 85% reduction in plastic bag usage has been seen. In July, the Environment Department announced that nine billion fewer plastic bags have been used since that tax was put in place. These steps stem from the government’s 25-year environmental strategy as part of its commitment to the Paris agreement.
While some are cautioning that the announcement regarding the proposed tax does too little, especially after the European Commission ruled out a similar tax for the EU last month, Brown takes the positive spin: “The Treasury’s announcement is only a statement of intent, but it recognizes the significance of the problem and the urgent need for a solution. There is a long way to go, but hopefully, this is the beginning of the end for single-use plastic.”