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Autumn Budget: Single-Use Plastics, Waste Crime Funding, Electric Vehicles

UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, set out the Treasury’s latest financial plan for the UK in the Autumn Budget last week, with a number of announcements that affect the waste and resource sector.

Whilst the budget was welcomed by much of the industry, there was criticism over a lack of support for renewable energy.

Widely reported prior to the Budget, the Chancellor launched a call for evidence over the introduction of a tax on single-use plastics, in a bid to tackle the impact of packaging waste on the environment and reduce plastic pollution. The call for evidence will begin in the new year, with a consultation to seek views on whether a tax system on packaging such as bubble wrap, toothpaste tubes, polystyrene takeaway boxes and throwaway coffee cups would help reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste. Stakeholders will be asked whether a tax is appropriate and, if implemented, how much money such a tax would raise and what the tax revenues would be used for.

The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF), a tax credit scheme that enables operators of the landfill sites to contribute to environmental community projects, will be set at £33.9m for 2018-19. This is in accordance with the announcement in the Spring Budget that the cap on contributions by landfill operations would be set at 5.3 per cent.

Following a freeze in the rates for Aggregates Levy, an environmental tax that applies to the extraction or importation of sand, gravel and crushed rock, this will be set at £2 per tonne for 2018-19. The levy will return to being index-linked in the longer term. Following consultation, the government has decided against introducing an exemption from the Aggregates Levy for aggregates extracted when laying underground utility pipes.

From 1 April 2018, operators of illegal waste sites will become liable for Landfill Tax, and those who continue to flout the rules will face tough civil and criminal sanctions. This follows a positive response to the consultation announced in the Spring Budget 2017. In addition, the government is providing £30 million extra funding over the next four years to help the Environment Agency tackle waste crime and reduce the harm caused to the environment and to legitimate operators.

The Chancellor announced that an extra £100 million will go towards helping people to buy battery electric cars, and will make sure that all new homes are built with the right cables for electric car charge points.

The Budget was met with a largely positive response from the waste and resource industry, with CIWM commenting that there are a number of encouraging announcements for the sector, but adding that the UK government must go further when future policy on resources and waste is shaped, post-Brexit.

On the single-use plastic announcement, CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church said: “There is still a long way to go, but the Chancellor’s words send a clear signal to businesses and consumers that plastic waste is under the spotlight”. He added that: “With the tide of public opinion turning because of issues such as marine plastic pollution, it is encouraging to see that the government is willing to act.”

ESA’s Executive Director, Jacob Hayler said of the funding to tackle waste crime: “The Chancellor has listened to the industry’s calls to toughen the fight against waste crime, and the extra £30 million funding provided to the Environment Agency to help stamp out illegal activity in the sector is highly welcome. This will strengthen the industry’s efforts to boost recycling and resource productivity.”

Clarity Environmental Managing Director, David Adams, added: “We welcome any measures that will help the Environment Agency tackle waste crime. Illegal waste activity not only puts a blight on our countryside, but it also seriously undermines the reputation of our industry and costs legitimate businesses and taxpayers. We must ensure that those who flout the rules receive tough sanctions, and together the industry can support the regulators by reducing the opportunities available for illegal operators to do business.”

Although the support for electric vehicles was welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association, the organisation once again expressed disappointment at the lack of support for renewable energy. James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs, said: “Whilst the announcements for electric vehicles are positive, the UK government seem to be turning their back on renewables by announcing no new support for projects post 2020, and a freeze on carbon taxes. This could see a hiatus in much needed infrastructure development. Considering this is coming only a couple of months after the much-vaunted Clean Growth Plan, it’s hugely disappointing.

“The Chancellor talked about embracing the future in his speech, yet hid away the details that he was blocking all renewables to market. Onshore wind and solar are already cheaper than new build gas, and we have seen huge cost reductions happening in offshore wind, energy from waste and biomass. These are the technologies of the future and the Government should be backing them, not blocking their progress.

“The renewable power and heat sectors are urgently calling for clarity around how the Government intends to bring forward new capacity.”

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