EU should tax plastic to cut use

The EU should strongly consider using new taxes to reduce the overall level of plastic use in the economy and incentivise reuse and recycling, according to a new study.

The report produced by the New Economics Foundation for Zero Waste Europe set out a number of scenarios for reducing the 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in Europe every year, less than 30% of which is collected for recycling.

It found that taxes on plastics production would be less likely to impact consumer behaviour, but are theoretically easier and less challenging to administer; while taxes on consumption could help change both individual behaviour and shape the public debate, but may do little to change the production methods of the industry.

Examples of possible taxes include a levy on the initial production of monomers, such as ethylene, propylene or benzene, which are processed into plastic resins, or making consumers pay extra for single-use plastic items such as coffee cups.

Researchers said that no single plastics tax could be effective and that a suite of taxes would be required to reduce use and change behaviour. They concluded that more economic research is now needed to explore the practicalities and design of a range of options.

A recent UK government consultation revealed overwhelming support among the British public for new fiscal measures to reduce demand for single-use plastics like coffee cups and takeaway boxes.

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