Record 162,000 people have their say on plastic reduction

Thomas Moore, science and medical correspondent

A record 162,000 people have had their say in a government review of how tax could reduce plastic pollution.

The high number of responses reflects the public's concern about the impact of plastic on the environment.

Since January last year, Sky Ocean Rescue has campaigned for deposits on plastic bottles and for plastic in packaging to be replaced by alternative materials.

According to details released by the Treasury, individuals, businesses and campaign groups all submitted evidence to the review.

Among the popular measures were using the tax system to encourage greater use of recycled plastic in manufacturing, discouraging the use of hard-to-recycle black plastic, and reducing demand for single-use plastics such as coffee cups and takeaway boxes.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has indicated that he will announce tax measures in the November Budget to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary, said: "Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities and we know the public is right behind us.

"I've been overwhelmed by the public support and the responses we have received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this."

Latest figures from the recycling group Recoup show that 2,260,000 tons of plastic packaging were put on the UK market in 2016.

Just under 45% (1,015,226 tons) were collected for recycling, with the rest sent to landfill or incinerated.

Suez, one of the country's largest recycling and waste management companies, wants businesses using plastic to take more responsibility for their products.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez, said: "Producers can currently produce unsustainable products that are difficult, or impossible, to recycle and these are simply thrown away.

"The consumer and environment pick up the cost.

"An extended producer responsibility scheme, designed with the right fiscal measures, would consign unnecessary single-use plastics to the scrap heap and spawn a new generation of better-designed products using more recyclable content."

Hugo Tagholm, who heads the campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, said: "This is a clear indication of the public appetite for more fiscal interventions to help reduce plastic pollution littering our environment, from inner-city streets and countryside to our oceans."

:: Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to cut back on single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com

:: Oceans campaigner Lewis Pugh is swimming the length of the Channel - from Land's End to Dover - to raise awareness of the plastic pollution problem. You can read more about The Long Swim here.