Bring In A Tax On Plastic Packaging, Incentivising The Use Of Biodegradable Alternatives

Bring In A Tax On Plastic Packaging, Incentivising The Use Of Biodegradable Alternatives

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Celeste Guinness started this petition to Michael Gove MP (Secretary of State for Environment, UK)

Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution and we need to make a drastic change.

In October, The Environment Agency in Austria found microplastics - nine separate types - in human excrement for the first time. Not only that, they estimate, using their data, that more than 50% of the world's population has currently has microplastics in their exrement. This means that more than 50% of people worldwide are consuming food or water contaminated by microplastics, which are so small they can enter the bloodstream and embed themselves in human bodies forever on a cellular level. The potential health implications of this on a global scale are terrifying, and we need to do everything in our power to halt plastic use, pollution and production where possible.

If the UK Govt brings in a plastic packaging tax, applying a levy to products that are packaged in plastic intended just for one use, companies will have a financial incentive to seek out other, more environmentally friendly ways to package their products, reducing the amount of plastic waste that's finding its way into our food chain and water supplies, and that's also wreaking havoc on other species and ecosystems. Biologists have dubbed this present time on Earth the period of 'The Sixth Extinction', due to the amount of species that are vanishing, largely  due to plastic pollution. More info here: 'Fighting Mass Extinction Together', 'Ocean Plastic Pollution’s Shocking Death Toll on Endangered Animals' and 'These 700 Marine Species Might Go Extinct Because of Plastic Pollution'.

The links above show how plastics are devastating other species, who often can't tell the difference between a piece of plastic and a piece of food, but how do microplastics find their way into the human food chain?

  • Water: Microplastics are so omnipresent they've even been found in Swiss mountain water, which would commonly be thought to be amongst the purest of water supplies. The World Health Organisation has also reported that they believe 90% of bottled water contains microplastics.
  • Table Salt: Salt-makers make sea salt by evaporating sea water, collecting particles of salt left behind and selling to be used as seasoning. However, now that our oceans are full of tiny particles of plastic, when salt-makers have evaporated sea water and are collecting the particles of salt left behind, they are now often collecting millions of particles of microplastics as well, which get sold with the salt. There is no way of separating what is a particle of salt vs what is a microscopic piece of plastic without going over every piece of salt, grain by grain, which would be impossible when people are creating tonnes of salt every day. Even if you don't use salt when cooking, which you probably do, think about all the food that you consume which contains salt: all of this could contain microplastics.
  • Food chain: Just one example of how microplastics can end up in a human body is this: Plankton eats microplastics, Prawn eats plankton, Human eats prawns. However, this is definitely not limited to just humans eating seafood: any animal which has consumed food or water that contains microplastics will also be contaminated, and any loaf of bread (or any item of food full stop) that has been made with water contaminated with microplastics will also be contaminated.
  • Studies have found that female dolphins in polluted oceans accumulate so many toxins in their lives by eating contamined marine life that their milk is toxic enough to kill more than 50% of their first-born calves, who die of poisoning. Their second calf has a higher chance of survival because the milk (which has spent years accumulating toxins) has been offloaded onto their first-born. This phenomenon is heartbreaking. Humans and dolphins are both mammals; will this soon be a phenomenon we both share, as we are increasingly exposed to microplastics?


Biodegradable alternatives to plastic do exist, but aren't widely adopted because they cost slightly more than plastic. However, more demand for biodegradable packaging materials would bring the price down, and having a tax on plastic would create more demand for environmentally friendly alternatives, so would help make alternatives more financially accessible. In the UK, plastic recycling systems are in place, but this is not enough; read this article for more info on this: 'Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix'.

By signing this petition, you are sending a message to the Government that lets them know we are ready for the drastic change needed, at a Government-level, to effectively disrupt the current, destructive model of plastic use we currently have. I propose we introduce this new plastic tax in 2021,which would give companies who sell items packaged in plastic time to let their suppliers know that they need to switch their packaging to biodegradable materials before the 2021 deadline, meaning that, though this would be a UK initiative, it would have a wider-reaching impact, since suppliers outside the UK would also be incentivised to switch to biodegradable packaging.

If you're reading this in a country that isn't the UK, feel free to copy this petition (even word-for-word), to create your own one one, petitioning your Minister for the Environment to introduce plastic packaging taxes in your own country. By working together on this, we are stronger.

Please share this if you agree.

Many thanks,

Celeste Guinness | female trouble

London, UK

Further Reading: What else can you do to to minimise plastic waste? From boycotting cosmetic products that contain microbeads to choosing biodegradable glitter over its plastic alternative, there are many consumer choices you can make that will help; this article has five very useful tips.

 Header Image by Daisy-May Nicholson (@daizy_greenekelly_)





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