UK may tax nylon in war on plastic

Jessica Shankleman

British chancellor Philip Hammond is being urged to start taxing clothes made from polyester and nylon as he seeks to stop harmful plastics filling the world’s oceans.

The UK treasury is aiming to announce a package of new taxes to deal with plastic waste in its budget statement in November, following a consultation that attracted more than 100,000 responses.

The UK government wants to eliminate plastic waste by 2025. Its policies already deal with about half the plastic that gets into the ocean, but other areas like synthetic fibres, tyre dust, and cigarettes remain unaccounted for. The country’s 22 year-old landfill tax on materials sent to the dump is arguably its most successful environmental policy, having helped cut waste buried on land by more than 65%. It has also boosted recycling by slowly increasing rates charged to waste companies.

“The treasury wants to get in on this game because they understand that plastic is a big issue and they can see the electoral dynamics,” said Dustin Benton of the Green Alliance think-tank.

Along with Greenpeace, Green Alliance also called for taxation on virgin plastics to encourage a greater use of recycled materials. Greenpeace also called for the British government to simply ban all plastic goods that it deems pointless, like stirrers and sachets. Remaining products such as single-use coffee cups, should be taxed, it said in its submission.

A rising tax on synthetic fibres over five years would encourage clothing manufacturers and retailers to use more sustainable materials and tighter weaves to reduce shedding, Mr Benton said.


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