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The government is introducing a plastic tax

  • 3 min read

As of April 1st 2022, the government will be introducing a new plastic tax! This new tax will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The aim of the tax is to provide an incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic and increase levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste. As a Plastic Negative certified brand, we've pulled together our thoughts on how we believe this will effect the beauty industry, consumers and what steps brands can take towards reducing their plastic use. 

Is the introduction of plastic packaging tax a positive step?

The introduction of plastic packaging tax is an environmentally positive step because we need to turn the tide on plastic pollution - especially within the beauty industry. At UpCircle, our hope is that the tax will push brands to look at plastic-free packaging solutions, such as the glass jars we use at UpCircle or aluminium containers that can be endlessly recycled. We're a firm believer that the future is circular, not only when it comes to ingredients, but also when it comes to packaging. If the tax increases the use of post-consumer recycled plastic and also results in more refillable products, then it’s a positive in our eyes.

How will the new tax impact the beauty industry and consumers?

The beauty industry is a major contributor to the serious issue that we have created on our planet with regards to plastic. Billions of units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, bulked out by the use of complex lids, multi-layered boxes and cellophane, much of which is superfluous, non-recyclable and ends up in our landfills and oceans. We think the new tax will have a positive impact on the beauty industry by giving brands the push they need to re-evaluate their use of plastic across supply chains. This evaluation is something we recently undertook at UpCircle to achieve our Plastic Negative certification. We found out that our Eye Cream with Coffee extract accounted for almost a quarter of our plastic usage as a brand, so we immediately looked for a plastic-free packaging solution – coming soon! We're not suggesting that all brands in the industry will now do the same, but the tax will definitely encourage many to step back and rethink their end-to-end plastic usage.

What does it mean to be Plastic Negative certified?

Being certified plastic negative means that for every product we sell we are contributing a percentage towards vetted impact programs that remove more plastic waste from the environment than we create in our packaging and operations. Plastic neutral would be the removal of as much plastic as your brand uses, plastic negative means we remove twice as much as we use. At UpCircle we always go one step further and so it was never an option to settle for anything less than becoming plastic negative - plastic neutral or "offsetting" just wouldn't cut it!

UpCircle has grown to be the UK’s #1 upcycled skincare brand. We’re committed to the circular economy through our use of
 upcycled by-product ingredients as well as our packaging return and refill scheme. As a business we have always been committed to reducing our plastic use wherever possible, for example, we recently repackaged our signature coffee scrubs into glass jars with aluminium lids. As the next step it was a no-brainer to actively remove plastic from the environment.

So, what can other beauty brands do in order to reduce their plastic use?

For other brands, we believe there are some easy improvements they could start with. Packaging returns schemes are logistically challenging to put into place (ours took 5 years to roll out), so if something like that is not yet feasible for a brand, they should embrace easier changes that can be made first. For example the lid of our Face Serum with Coffee oil currently has a plastic base surrounding the glass pipette. However, we offer a plain aluminium cap option for repeat orders of our serum, encouraging our customers to keep their original serum pipette lid to reuse on their new serum replacement! We are constantly evolving and open to incorporating new ideas and packaging solutions.

There are lots of options out there which work brilliantly. Our Hand Cream launching later this year will be housed in a 100% aluminium tube, our marketing materials are printed on paper made from recycled coffee cups and we use tape made from 100% recycled fibres. UpCircle HQ is a plastic free zone!