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Bubblewrap tax could be considered in Autumn Budget

By Chris Dawson November 19, 2017 - 1:39 pm

It’s budget week and it’s widely predicted that the Chancellor will take the opportunity to call for evidence on whether a plastic tax could reduce the consumption of single use plastics. You’ll see much of the news reaction concentrate on plastic bottles and takeaway trays, but for online retailers it’s bubblewrap, mailing sacks and jiffy bags that could be most affected.

The problem with packaging is that it has to be cheap because it’s generally a disposable item. Whilst consumers might save the odd box or piece of bubblewrap to post their Christmas presents in generally such is the deluge of ecommerce packages arriving almost daily at our doors that most of it inevitably goes in the bin. Pretty much the only secondary use for bubblewrap is the joy of popping the bubbles rendering it useless.

Even packaging such as some mailing sacks are fully recyclable but ask yourself what you do when you rip open the parcel with your new shirt or pair of shoes. Do you check to see if the plastic mailing sack is recyclable or does it go straight into your general waste bin to be sent off to landfill?

Supporters of green packaging are pointing to the impact of the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags. Since 2015, largely since the fine for accepting a carrier bag was introduced, the number of carrier bags we as a nation use has dropped by 80%. It’s suggested that similar fines for using single use plastic packaging could have a similar effect.

We are calling on big corporations to act to reduce their plastic footprint – and stop producing excessive plastic packaging that is designed to be used once then thrown away. We are also calling on governments to act to tackle this problem, by creating closed loop systems that allow us to recover and reuse materials rather than waste them.
– Greenpeace

A tax on single use plastic could hike up costs for online retailers and this will inevitably be an expense that either hits your bottom line or that you’re forced to pass on to the consumer. Of course there are alternative packing fillers such as scrunched up paper, but often this is not as convenient to use and doesn’t offer the same level of protection for delicate items that bubblewrap does.

I’ve no doubt that in theory all online retailers would like to go green and know that their business wasn’t harming the environment, but in reality it’s a cost vs benefit decision and on something as essential but mundane as packaging it’s often the cost argument that wins. Would you pay any tax that might be imposed to encourage you to change your packaging, or have you already investigated greener alternatives?

eBay branded recyclable packaging

For the record, all of the boxes, plastic mailing sacks and plastic bubble mailers for sale in the eBay branded packaging shop are fully recyclable. However there’s a question mark about the eBay branded packing tape as that doesn’t state it’s recyclable so it’s probably not.

  • 3 weeks ago

    All the e bay traders and privateers i know on e bay reuse bubble wrap (and envelopes) again and again. If you can’t wrap with it small pieces pad out boxes. Just another tax on joe public and small traders, while the big guys will cut a deal with government.

  • NW
    3 weeks ago

    We should tax this and other forms of packaging. this will affect my business but it is for the greater good. It needs to be enough tax to the level of card/paper based packaging is.
    With a tax in place it then makes a level playing field for all UK! retailers, and yes the customer will ultimately pay, and so they should. We are consuming resources in the world and someone has to pay for this.

  • SAM
    3 weeks ago

    Greater use of recyclable packaging needs to be used by e-commerce sellers. We pad out just about everything in Amazon boxes with old packaging for example instead of using bubble-wrap.
    Also when we started off were-used just about everything we could. We are past that now, but if we can we will use packaging again.

    Companies putting their branding all over everything will STOP people using the packets again, so I would tax them for that.
    Every D1 we send can be used again.

  • simon
    3 weeks ago

    A lot of packaging is not needed.
    We sell ribbon and first put it on a thin piece of card, then into a grip seal bag. For 1 metre of product, we have created so much waste when in theory it could go between the folded invoice. But our feedback would reflect the tatty way it had been posted.
    (Our card is from old filing sleeves which keep the prices down and help the environment.
    We’ve had items delivered ie printers that have so much bubble wrap it would fill our big bins up, when a lot less and a bit of common senses could be used to protect it.

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