The Plastic Packaging Tax in the UK has been hailed as a positive step toward addressing plastic pollution, but Raffi Schieir, Director of Prevented Ocean Plastic, argues that it may not go far enough.

In an exclusive interview, Schieir discusses the limitations of the current legislation and suggests additional measures needed to make a meaningful impact on plastic pollution in the UK.

The effectiveness of current legislation

Schieir acknowledges the positive aspects of the Plastic Packaging Tax, stating, “I welcome legislation like the Plastic Packaging Tax. It’s an incentive for organisations to make more sustainable choices when it comes to packaging.”

However, he points out a critical flaw in the system, noting that businesses find it more cost-effective to pay the tax and use 100% virgin plastic rather than opting for recycled alternatives.

Despite generating a substantial amount—£276m in the 2022-23 financial year—the surplus from the tax was not directed toward programmes encouraging better behaviours.

Schieir argues that the current penalties are not strong enough to drive businesses to choose recycled options, hindering the transition to a real circular economy.

Success stories and the role of Prevented Ocean Plastic

Prevented Ocean Plastic offers a viable model for a socially and environmentally responsible recycled plastic supply chain.

Schieir highlights the organisation’s success in paying individuals from underserved communities to collect plastic waste, preventing almost two billion bottles from entering the ocean since 2019.

The director emphasises the need for a Just Transition and aims to open 25 new collection centres by 2025, demonstrating a commitment to supplying high-quality, traceable recycled plastic.

He believes Prevented Ocean Plastic serves as a practical example of how legislative measures like the Plastic Packaging Tax can be complemented by proactive initiatives.

Necessary amendments to legislation

Schieir advocates for increased penalties to drive action and clarity on directing tax revenue towards circular economy programmes.

He warns against potential pitfalls, such as the government’s consideration of chemically recycled plastics as part of the 30% recycled material needed to avoid the tax, which could undermine the tax’s primary objective.

To achieve a circular economy, Schieir insists on utilizing existing plastic and increasing demand for recycled plastic.

He suggests doubling the Plastic Packaging Tax to incentivize businesses to make better choices and actively contribute to reducing plastic pollution.

International collaboration and the role of global forums

As the focus shifts to Davos-Klosters during the Annual Meeting, Schieir stresses the importance of international collaboration and partnerships.

He views forums like Davos as crucial in driving legislative change and scaling solutions to address the plastic crisis globally. With the anticipated UN Plastic Treaty in 2024, collaboration becomes essential.

Businesses’ role beyond compliance

Schieir provides practical strategies for businesses to actively reduce their plastic footprint, emphasizing the importance of going beyond baseline standards.

He encourages reducing overall plastic use, implementing intelligent eco-design, offering refill schemes, and adopting circular recycling models to drive demand for recycled plastic.

The intersection of public awareness, education, and policy

Highlighting the role of public awareness and education, Schieir acknowledges their impact on consumer choices.

However, he emphasizes the urgency of ambitious government intervention, calling for increased Extended Producer Responsibility to hold corporations accountable for their plastic output.

Ultimately, Raffi Schieir’s insights shed light on the limitations of existing legislation, urging the UK government to take bolder steps to address plastic pollution.

By combining legislative measures with proactive initiatives like Prevented Ocean Plastic and promoting international collaboration, the Plastic Packaging Tax can become a catalyst for meaningful change in the fight against plastic pollution.