How to Avoid the UK Plastic Packaging Tax 2022
Everything you need to know about the UK Plastic Packaging Tax and how to dodge paying the extra tax on your packaging
20 August, 2021 by
How to Avoid the UK Plastic Packaging Tax 2022
Glenn Izard

How to Avoid the UK Plastic Packaging Tax 2022

Let's face it, no one likes paying more tax than they have to, and legitimately avoiding tax is something we all have to do. The plastic packaging tax is going to affect almost every business that uses packaging in the UK. For some businesses the impact of the plastic packaging tax will be huge, costing £200 for every ton of plastic packaging used. A ton may sound a lot, but it quickly adds up. Just 10 boxes of pallet wrap per month will cost you around £250 - £400 in tax per year. Our analysis has found that a surprising number of businesses use over 10 tons of plastic per annum, and heading for an increase of over £2000 in packaging costs. Read on to find out how the plastic packaging tax will affect you and how you can avoid it.

What is the UK Plastic Packaging Tax 2022

The plastic packaging tax is a new tax that will start on 1st April 2022. It aims to increase the amount of plastic being recycled, and drive innovation in plastic recycling processes. The tax of £200 per ton of plastic will be applied to manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic content.
The implications of the plastic packaging tax in the short term for companies across the UK is an increase in pricing. With plastic recycling innovation still lagging behind, the quality of recycled material is simply not at a high enough grade to ensure the quality needed for many packaging products. During the lag between the start of the tax, and new innovation gaining traction, there will unfortunately be price hikes as manufacturers and importers seek to cover the cost of the extra tax.

For some products the recycled content isn't a problem, and has been a type of polythene film available for making plastic packaging for many years. However, for some products the quality of the film is critical and recycled material just won't work. Below we'll explain how the plastic packaging tax will impact different packaging products, and what you can do to dodge the plastic packaging tax.

Avoiding the Plastic Packaging Tax on Stretch Film

Stretch film is a product that is particularly difficult to manufacture with recycled content. Puncture resistance is very important for stretch film, as the film needs to resist puncturing when stretched around corners on a pallet. Recycled plastic creates weak spots in the film leaving the stretch wrap vulnerable to puncturing and tearing. In short, a pallet wrap with recycled content will puncture more easily than a virgin new film.

There is also the consideration of stretch memory. Stretch memory is the amount of force the stretch pallet wrap has pulling back in when stretched. This force needs to stay high over time to ensure the stability of the pallet in storage. Plastic stretch film with recycled content has a significantly reduced stretch memory and therefore is not suitable for long term storage.

Stretch Film with Recycled Plastic - Options & Alternatives

While stretch film and pallet wrap containing recycled plastic is challenging, there are some alternatives to help you dodge the plastic tax on pallet wrap. The innovation here is in thinner but stronger films. While we have been seeing stronger wrapping films coming into the market over the past 10 years, since the announcement of the plastic packaging tax this has accelerated. We now have several options to choose from to help you evade the plastic packaging tax on stretch wrap.

The different options and alternatives to stretch film with recycled plastic are:

  • Nano-Layer Stretch Film: Nano-layer stretch film, or multi-layer pallet wrap, is a type of stretch film that is extruded in minute layers of different plastics. These multiple layers act like the layers in a sheet of plywood adding strength and durability to the film. Each layer is extremely thin at less than a micron with some films having as many as 32 layers in an 8mu film. The different layers have different film properties, some are highly puncture resistant, others have a very high stretch memory, others have a high holding force. When each of these separate layers all work together, the result is a very thin film that is extremely strong in all the properties that a good stretch film should have. This type of film can also power prestretch higher with levels of up to 400% achievable. Typical tax savings on this type of stretch film would be around 50%. increasing to 80% if moving to a 400% power prestretch from a standard 250%.

  • Pre-stretched Pallet Wrap Film: Pre-stretched film is a stretch film that has already been stretched during manufacture. So instead of stretching it while wrapping the pallet you just pull it tight and the stretch memory will hold the pallet firm. By optimally stretching the film on a specialist machine you get more wrap per roll helping you save up to 50% on tax because you are using less plastic per pallet. While historically pre-stretched pallet wrap films were lacking in quality, recent prestretched films are of a much higher quality level.

  • High Performance Additive Stretch Film: Stretch film that has special additives in the polythene film has been gaining traction over the past few years. The additives used have been quickly improving to a point where now we have a high performance stretch film that is quite capable of outclassing a standard film at a 15% - 25% reduction in amount of plastic used. Less plastic means less tax, so moving to this type of film will give you a clear 15% - 25% saving in tax, and you wouldn't even notice the difference when wrapping a pallet.

Dodging the Plastic Packaging Tax on Strapping

Strapping is also subject to the plastic packaging tax, and another product that is rather difficult to manufacture with recycled plastic and dodge the plastic packaging tax. Like stretch film, strapping is performance critical, and introducing recycled plastic into the manufacturing process can cause weak spots. Weak spots in strapping is not only inconvenient but it could also be very dangerous. If a strap breaks on a load during transport the consequences could be significant. However, there are technologies, specifically in PET strapping that have overcome the recycling content challenge. And I'm sure we will see more recycled plastic in other strapping types as recycling innovation improves.

Strapping with Recycled Plastic - Options & Alternatives

While there are challenges to producing strapping with recycled plastic, there are options and alternatives to help you avoid the plastic packaging tax on strapping. The main aim with strapping is to introduce a 'clean' recycled plastic that doesn't compromise the quality of the strapping. Below we'll go through the different types of strapping and what options you can choose.

The different options and alternatives to strapping with recycled plastic are:

  • Recycled PET Strapping: Green PET strapping with recycled plastic is now manufactured at a very high quality level and does not compromise on looks or breaking strain capabilities. Recycled plastic PET strapping is not subject to the plastic packaging tax as it has over 30% recycled plastic content. So if you are currently using a PET strapping, just move to a recycled PET strapping to avoid 100% of the plastic packaging tax.

  • Recycled Polyprop Strapping: The commonly used black polypropylene strapping on a plastic reel is now available with a high level of recycled content. While polyprop strapping with recycled plastic is very good quality and has a consistent breaking strain performance it is a bit smokier when used with heat sealing strapping tools and machines, and tends to leave a bit of a residue over time. However, it's nothing that a quick clean every so often won't fix so is perfectly manageable.

  • Paper Machine Strapping: For machine strapping of parcels that don't require high breaking strains, a paper strapping is often perfectly adequate. With a good 55kg breaking strain and the ability to be used in the same strapping machines as plastic strapping, paper strapping is a quick and easy swap out for plastic strapping.

Avoiding the Plastic Tax on Plastic Mailing Bags

Plastic mailing bags are used across the UK in their millions, whether plain opaque mailing bags or custom printed mailing bags, the plastic tax return on mailing bags alone is set to be in the £100k's. Thankfully we have some cards to play here to avoid the plastic tax. The main aim with using recycled plastic in poly mailers is to keep the finish of the bag acceptable. The opaque nature of the film and the relative thickness of the polythene used for plastic mailing bags means that we can hide the recycled content in the film and it doesn't cause problems.

Poly Mailers with Recycled Plastic - Options & Alternatives

We have a range of different options to tackle the tax on plastic mailing bags. There are two main points of attack, adding in the recycled material without affecting the quality of the product, or using a stronger but thinner film. The first option eliminates the plastic tax, the second reduces the amount of tax but doesn't risk some of the downsides of using recycled plastic.

  • Co-ex Mailing Bags with Virgin/Recycled Material: Co-extruded plastic mailing bags can be extruded with a virgin material on one side giving the strength and robustness, and a recycled material on the other side reaching the 30% recycled material threshold needed to remove the tax. Recycled co-ex poly mailers are a brilliant option and are perfect for custom printed mailing bags.

  • Recycled Poly Mailers: Poly mailers made with recycled plastic are plastic tax free and still a good quality multi-purpose mailing bag. These bags do have a slightly speckled surface with a matt finish which are actually preferred by some of our customers.

  • High Performance Film Plastic Mailing Bags: Plastic mailing bags made with high performance film allows film thickness savings of up to 50%. In plastic tax this amounts to a 50% saving too. When taking both reductions into account you could even save money by moving to a stronger but thinner film for your mailing bags. The other positive side is that there is no quality reduction in film strength.

How to Avoid the UK Plastic Packaging Tax 2022
Glenn Izard 20 August, 2021
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