Government responds to More United open letter on plastics

Published 12 October 2018

After weeks of campaigning, with thousands of us across the country taking action, the Minister for the Exchequer has responded to our letter on plastic pollution.

We asked the government to take firm action on single-use plastics, recycling and to hold manufacturers responsible for their waste. The Minister’s response confirms that these issues are now top of the agenda and things are going to change.

Of course, it's not in the bag yet. But this is an incredible example of the power we can have by working directly with MPs from different parties who share our values. 


Full text:

Dear Alistair, Peter, Caroline, Ian,

Thank you for your letter of 6 September to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about environmental tax. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this policy area.

I sympathise with your concerns surrounding plastic waste and the impact this can have on both our environment and the economy. This Government has been clear that it wants to be the first to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited it.

As part of this commitment, the Government recently called for evidence to examine how the tax system or charges can help reduce single-use plastic waste. This received an unprecedented 162,000 responses, demonstrating the strong public interest in this area. I am pleased to hear that your consultation, in partnership with More United, also showed significant public interest.

We are continuing to consider the most promising suggestions received in the call for evidence, ahead of announcing next steps at Budget. Some of these suggestions are similar to the areas that you asked we consider. Specifically, the Government is exploring how to use tax to:

  • Reduce demand for commonly littered single-use plastic items, including single-use coffee cups and takeaway boxes
  • Shift demand towards using recycled plastic in manufacturing
  • Encourage more sustainable design of plastic items and discourage those that prove difficult to recycle such as carbon plastic black plastics.
  • Ensure the right incentives are in place to encourage recycling of waste that is currently incinerated.

Related to this the Government is currently working on reforms to the Producer Responsibility regime, which holds suppliers of packaging accountable for its disposal and reprocessing. Through reforming the current system, we are looking at all aspects of the regime, including mechanisms to incentivise better design, encourage the use of recycled material and make better use of materials at the end of life. This could include making producers pay more if their products aren't easily recyclable and them paying less if their products are made from recycled materials. The Government has also announced that it will extend the carrier bag charge to all retailers, and review the level of the charge. This all follows the announcement earlier this year on a potential ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, subject to consultation. 

I hope this reassures you that the Government takes this issue seriously and is taking appropriate action to address it. Thank you once more for taking the trouble to make us aware of your concerns. I am copying this letter to The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.

Yours ever,

Robert Jenrick

(Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury)