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The plastic packaging tax is coming. How ready are you?

To avoid being caught out by the Plastic Packaging Tax, due to come into force in April 2022, Antalis Packaging offers its insight on how to get ready.

Over the last few months, Antalis Packaging has been making preparations to help its customers minimise the impact of the tax. Here, Antalis’ packaging technologist manager, Jason Poxon, explores what the new tax might mean for businesses and shares some of the steps to take to ensure you are not caught out.

No one likes paying taxes, but the new Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) has a very worthy goal. According to the government’s policy paper, its objective is ‘to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the manufacture of plastic packaging, which will create greater demand for this material. In turn this will stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration’.

The tax applies to plastic packaging produced in or imported into the UK that contains less than 30% recycled plastic. The current proposal suggests that a charge of £200 per tonne will be required to be paid by the first business in the chain to commercially exploit the plastic packaging, although liability can be passed to parties further down the chain. As such, it is likely that contracts will need to specify if costs are excluding PPT or including PPT. Businesses that import less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging in a 12 month period, however, will be exempt.

For businesses that are unprepared, the new tax has the potential to hit them hard. At Antalis, we have identified four ways liable parties can look to minimise the impact of the tax on their business, which has the parallel, positive effect of reducing the impact of their business on the planet. We have called them the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and replace. Below, I have outlined how they work in practice.

Reduce use of plastic packaging

Reducing the amount of plastic packaging used might be easier than people think. Probably the biggest source of plastic packaging use among Antalis customers is stretch film. It is a product that is frequently over used. Fortunately, however, it is a relatively easy issue to rectify. Through our free consultation and audit, we have helped customers to make savings of up to 70% in cost and waste, simply by matching the correct film to their machine and ensuring the machine is calibrated correctly.

Another way of reducing or even eliminating the use of plastic is through smart packaging design. In designing bespoke packaging, it is possible to minimise the use of plastic and other packaging materials as well as creating packaging that offers optimum protection along with other benefits such as speed of assembly.

Reuse plastic packaging

Plastic packaging that can be used over and over again is proving popular among our business to business customers, particularly those within the automotive industry. It is an often complex supply chain involving small manufacturers producing individual parts which might undergo multiple processes by different companies within the chain. If each company were to use single use packaging, whether paper or plastic, the environmental and financial impact could be significant.

In situations such as this, plastic packaging comes into its own. We recently produced bespoke, reusable packaging using Correx corrugated plastic for a client whose previous packaging solution entailed wrapping each part in plastic bubble wrap before placing in individual boxes; as well as being single use packaging, it was inefficient for both the company and its customer who would have to unwrap each part before recycling or disposing of the packaging. In contrast, the bespoke design made from Correx can be reused up to 30 times, plus it has reduced the time taken to pack 30 units (one pallet’s worth) from one hour to just 10 minutes. At this stage, it is unclear how reusable plastic packaging such as this will be affected by the tax, but the many benefits mean it has to be worth considering regardless.

Use recycled plastic packaging

The important figure to remember with regard to the PPT is 30%. Plastic packaging containing at least 30% recycled plastic will be exempt from the tax. Over the last few months, we have been developing our Antalis Packaging range of tax exempt products. It is an ongoing process and we are continuing to work with our suppliers to source and develop more products. Among our current portfolio of tax-exempt products are:

White poly mailing bags – 75% recycled content.

Grey mailing bags – 100% recycled content.

Sealed Air Mail Lite and Master’In Mailers – bubble liner has 60% recycled content.

Hand stretch blown film, 17 micron or above – 30% recycled content.

Loosefill – 100% bio based and recycled content.

Airspeed Renew air bags – 50% recycled content.

Replace plastic packaging

Finally, consider replacing plastic packaging with alternative, paper based products – but only if it doesn’t compromise protection or increase environmental impact. We recently helped a global beauty company to eliminate plastic from its transit packaging. The company had been using plastic air sacs for void fill, so we suggested it trial Fillpak TT, by Ranpak, a flexible, portable void fill system in which fan folded kraft paper sheets are crumpled in the converter to form the filling material. The trial was so successful, the company went on to buy four units.

Preparation is key

There is no doubt that it will be a challenging period for many businesses while the new tax beds in – as well as the cost of the tax itself, there will be associated administrative costs for all businesses affected. That is why thinking about the changes you can begin to make now in preparation is so important. Speaking to your packaging supplier is a crucial part of that preparation.

At Antalis Packaging, we can perform an audit of current packaging and machinery used and advise on products that are either tax exempt or other ways to manage use of plastic packaging. It is not about getting rid of plastic altogether – sometimes plastic really is the best option – it is about choosing it carefully and using it wisely.

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