The Government will use next week’s Budget to launch a consultation into whether taxes could be used to limit our use of plastic packaging.
Sources in the Treasury suggest the Chancellor will look at whether similar measures to those used to target carrier bags could help reduce plastic waste such as bottles, bubble wrap and takeaway boxes.
There has been an 80% reduction in plastic bag use since 2015 after shops were legally obliged to charge for their purchase.
Philip Hammond is expected to “call for evidence” next Wednesday from consumers, environmental groups and companies involved in the life cycle of plastic products to see whether taxes and charges could be used more widely.
Over 300 million tonnes of plastic were produced in the UK alone in 2014 and that number is expected to double over the next 20 years.
Tisha Brown from Greenpeace told Sky News: “Taxation measures can help as we’ve seen with the plastic bag levy, which dramatically reduced the number of bags purchased and those ending up in the environment.
“We know that works and we’re hoping that taxation measures on other items can reduce our plastic footprint,” she added.
But the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group has warned the Government against using taxation as a “blunt instrument”.
Research director Alex Wild argues that businesses often correct their own behaviours without interference and that “all too often governments use the tax system to correct every perceived ill they can think of”.
The Scottish and Welsh parliaments are already using their devolved powers to try to limit single-use plastics.
Cardiff may follow Edinburgh and start trialling a deposit return scheme next year, while Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign has helped maintain the political pressure.
Government advisers say they want to look at what can be done to decrease use, increase recycling and force businesses to innovate in the materials they use for packaging.
They insist the aim is for Britain to become a world leader in green technologies, but argue levies – if used judiciously – can help alter behaviours without adding costs to business.
:: Sky has been running a campaign to make people more aware of the effect plastic has on the world’s oceans and to share ways of tackling the problem. To get involved in Sky Ocean Rescue, visit the campaign website here. You can also watch our documentary, A Plastic Voyage.