Tax measures to reduce single-use plastics could be included in the Budget following huge public support for action, a Treasury minister said.
A consultation on the possibility of tax changes to stem the rising tide of plastic waste drew 162,000 responses, the highest in the Treasury’s history.
Campaigners hailed the news, with Greenpeace suggesting a so-called “latte levy” on throwaway coffee was now “inevitable”.
Visiting a plastic pollution clean-up operation on Perranporth Beach in Cornwall, Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick said he was committed to reducing single-use plastic waste.
“Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities and we know the public is right behind us,” he said.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the public support, and the responses we’ve received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this.
“Our duty to leave the environment in a better state than we found it is absolutely clear and what we’ve set out today is another important step to ensuring a cleaner, greener future for Britain.”
The consultation responses will lead to action in this year’s Budget, he added, and could include encouraging a greater use of recycled plastic in manufacturing rather than new plastic and reducing demand for coffee cups and takeaway boxes.
Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm said he was delighted with the level of support.
He said: “Surfers Against Sewage is delighted with the huge public response to the Treasury’s recent call for evidence on how the tax system could be used to reduce plastic waste, which many of our supporters responded to.
“This is a clear indication of the public appetite for more fiscal interventions to help reduce plastic pollution littering our environment, from inner-city streets and countryside to our oceans.”
The Treasury is also looking at how it could further support measures to fund the development of new, greener products and innovative processes that will help ensure a more sustainable future for the country.
Greenpeace senior plastic pollution campaigner Louise Edge said the record-breaking response was remarkable, calling it “a people’s plastic charter”.
“Public outrage over the issue of plastic pollution has been explosive over the past year or so,” she said.
“It’s hardly surprising when you see the impact of plastic on wildlife and our oceans, and when it’s clear that so many companies are still pumping out throwaway plastic with no regard for the damage it causes.
“People aren’t just getting angry, they’re getting active, and they’re demanding action from the Government.
“The so-called latte levy on disposable coffee cups seems inevitable now, but that should be just the tip of the iceberg. This is a public mandate to end the age of throwaway plastic.”
The consultation is part of the Government’s overall commitment in its 25-year environment plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.
It builds on the recently announced £20 million plastics innovation fund – to support the production of sustainable and recyclable plastics – and follows the £61.4 million announced by the Prime Minister to be invested in tackling plastic in the world’s oceans.