A new plastic tax could see a levy slapped on disposable coffee cups and throwaway burger trays.
Chancellor Philip Hammond used his Spring Statement to officially launch a consultation into how the tax system could be used to tackle the mountain of single-use plastics discarded every year.
“Single-use plastics that have been used for only a few seconds can last centuries in the natural environment,” the chancellor said.
Taxes would be “a way of changing behaviour”, he added.
Takeaway boxes, disposable cups, plastic wrap, chewing gum and cigarette filters are some of the plastics that the government is consulting on.
A so-called “latte levy” of 25p on disposable coffee cups has been mooted recently, while a 5p charge on takeaway burger containers has also been mentioned.
The 5p “tax” on single-use plastic bags from major supermarkets introduced in 2015 has seen a 90% reduction in the estimated 7.6 billion bags handed over to shoppers before its introduction.
Prime minister Theresa May has made cutting plastic waste a central plank of her government programme following the outcry sparked by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II TV show.
Around 12million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.
In his statement, Hammond told MPs: “We must take bold action to become a world leader in tackling the scourge of single-use plastic littering our streets, countryside and coastline.”
No firm decisions have been made on what products will be targeted but the chancellor urged industry, green groups and the public to come up with ideas on how best to reduce the amount of plastic rubbish.
One other idea is a deposit/return system in which you pay a deposit on a plastic bottle, then get the money back.
Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK senior political adviser, said in response to today’s announcement: “The success of the plastic bag charge shows that a smart tax on plastic can work, so it’s good to see the chancellor reconfirm his commitment to look into this.
“The main problem with single-use plastic is that we produce far too much of it in the first place.
“There should be more pressure on supermarkets and food giants to cut down the amount of throwaway plastic they put in circulation, and it should go hand in hand with a UK-wide deposit-return scheme for all drinks containers that can boost collection rates.”