Parents face new nappy tax: Levy on disposable diaper brands could be brought in to tackle landfill crisis
- Disposable nappies could be next single-use plastic item to be targeted with tax
- Ministers hope levy would encourage parents to switch to green alternatives
- Three billion nappies are thrown away every year, about 3% of household waste
- Follows announcement last week on throwaway plates, cups and cutlery
Disposable nappies could be taxed to encourage parents to switch to green alternatives.
The move is being examined as a way to stop the products, which cannot be recycled, going to landfill.
They are the next target on a ministerial hit list following the announcement last week of action on throwaway plates, cups and cutlery.
A Whitehall source involved in the nappy policy said: ‘The next single-use plastic item we are looking at is nappies.
Disposable nappies could be taxed to encourage parents to switch to green alternatives and reduce landfill (stock photo)
‘But you couldn’t ban them – that would be too tough for parents. It would need to take some form of a tax.’
Three billion nappies are thrown away every year, accounting for 2 to 3 per cent of UK household waste, according to recycling charity Wrap. A baby gets through around 5,000 during infancy – equivalent to 130 large bin bags.
And as well as being a major source of plastic waste, they are the worst cause of contamination in recycling.
Justine Roberts, of the parenting forum Mumsnet, warned that reusable nappies were more time-consuming.
‘It would be good for parents to have affordable options that are greener,’ she added. ‘Reusable nappies don’t necessarily have to be pricier, but it’s certainly more resource-intensive.
‘Ideally, parents do want to make greener choices, but it’s hard when they are busy and finances are stretched and they’re struggling to find a moment for themselves.
Nappies are the next target on a ministerial hit list following the announcement last week of action on throwaway plates, cups and cutlery.
‘Asking parents, and, frankly, it’s usually mothers, for the commitment needed for reusables is a big ask. No one on Mumsnet doubts the need to take action for the environment, but consumers need viable options.’
But Allison Ogden-Newton of Keep Britain Tidy said: ‘Disposable nappies are entirely plastic and cannot be recycled. People still aren’t aware of this. We estimate there are a million people trying to recycle disposable nappies and causing huge contamination.
‘This is an iceberg of contaminated material going to landfill and we’re losing whole truckloads of recyclable waste. The first thing we need to do is to educate consumers that these products are not recyclable and need to be disposed of in household waste.
‘There should be a financial incentive for sustainable alternatives to create this market we need. At the moment, the system we have does no one any good.’
Ministers have had disposable nappies on their radar for some time, with then-environment secretary Michael Gove hinting in 2018 that they could be banned.
His remarks prompted a major backlash, with parenting website Netmums saying it would leave women arm deep in washing dirty nappies.
Mr Gove later clarified his comments to say that nappies wouldn’t be banned, but suggested they could be part of plans to ‘tackle waste better’.
Officials hope a tax will prompt parents to opt for cloth nappies that can be washed and reused or biodegradable ones. This would also mean that the contents of the nappies are processed in water treatment works, as adult waste is, rather than contaminating landfill sites and rivers.
However Justine Roberts, of the parenting forum Mumsnet, warned that reusable nappies were more time-consuming
The archipelago of Vanuatu, in the Pacific Ocean, is believed to have become the first nation to ban disposable nappies in 2019.
Ministers have already banned plastic straws, stirrers, cotton buds and microbeads, as well as bringing in a plastic bag tax.
The 5p charge on single-use carrier bags was introduced in 2015, cutting their use in the main supermarkets by 95 per cent. The levy has since increased to 10p and has been extended to all retailers, helping to reduce their use further.
The Environment Bill, which ministers hope will become law before the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow in November, will introduce a new tax on manufacturers.
An ‘extended producer responsibility’ scheme will mean companies will be expected to cover the full cost of recycling and disposing of their packaging.
Producers of commonly dumped packaging will be made more responsible for this waste, having to pay fees to cover the cost of clean-up and for activities to prevent littering. Powers to ban single-use plastics will be enshrined in the Bill.
The Daily Mail’s Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign has highlighted the damage that the toxic waste does to our environment.
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