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'Takeaway tax' could be introduced on single-use plastics in effort to cut waste

Around 12 million tonnes of waste enter oceans every year. Credit: AP

Single use plastics such as water bottles and takeaway cartons could be hit with an extra tax in an effort to cut waste and protect the environment.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to announce a call for evidence in his Budget statement on Wednesday.

The move is aimed at reducing the roughly 12 million tonnes of waste which enter oceans every year - the equivalent of a rubbish truck every minute.

It has raised concern over plastic pollution's effects on sea life and is also increasingly entering the human food chain.

Over a million birds as well as 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating or becoming trapped in plastic waste.

And one in three fish caught in the English Channel now contains pieces of plastic, the Government said.

A man clears plastic litter from a beach. Credit: AP

Vast floating areas of plastic have formed in the world's seas, including one in the Pacific, the size of France.

In the UK, the amount of single-use plastic that is thrown away each year could fill the Royal Albert Hall 1,000 times over.

Sir David Attenborough recently recalled the "heartbreaking" sight of an albatross feeding plastic to its young chick instead of fish.

The proposed extra tax would be aimed at encouraging producers and consumers to use fewer single-use plastics.

It comes after a similar 5p tax on plastic bags was introduced in 2015, which has been credited with cutting their use by 80% and almost halving the amount of waste plastic found on UK beaches.

The Government's call for evidence is expected to launch in the new year.

It has not said how much it would expect the tax to raise and whether any money brought in from the policy would be used for environmental work.

Turtles, fish, birds and seals are dying after eating or being caught in plastic. Credit: AP

The move to discourage the use of single-use plastics through a taxhas been welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Tisha Brown, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK described the situation as a "global emergency".

She said: "It is everywhere from the Arctic Ocean at top of the world, to the Marianas Trench at the bottom of the Pacific.

"It's in whales, turtles and 90% of sea birds, and it's been found in our salt, our tap water and even our beer.

"The Treasury's announcement is only a statement of intent, but it recognises 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."

A 5p plastic bag charge led to a dramatic drop in their use across the UK. Credit: PA

Some campaigners have pushed for the Government to go further, by investing in research for affordable and less damaging packaging alternatives.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth chief executive, called on to commit to a timeline to ban single-use plastics altogether.

David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, said: "This is a vital step towards achieving a more resource-efficient society and encouraging producers to take more responsibility.

"An extended producer responsibility regime should address all forms of resource usage, materials and packaging production, and their collection, reuse and recycling across the supply chain."