Why are plastic bag prices rising?

AuthorEmmeline | Product specialist                                              3 min read

You may be wondering why every time you see a price increase the plastic bag prices seem to soaring.

From the packaging tax causing extra demand for recycled raw materials rising oil importing costs of is on rise this article will take through different reasons and how can mitigate these sustainably.

The Plastic Packaging Tax - April 2022

What is it?

Coming straight from the Gov.uk website, here is the general description…

This is a new tax that will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. Plastic packaging is packaging that is predominantly plastic by weight.
It will not apply to any plastic packaging which contains at least 30% recycled plastic, or any packaging which is not predominantly plastic by weight.
Imported plastic packaging will be liable to the tax, whether the packaging is unfilled or filled.

What this means is that any plastic that comes into the UK with less than 30% recycled content will be taxed according to its weight. Although almost all the bags we supply are made of recycled material, this tax is forcing retail and food packaging that has been mostly non-recycled up until now to use recycled content instead. This is hugely increasing the demand for recyclable plastic waste, so refuse sack factories are having to pay much higher prices for their raw materials to compete with other packaging producers.

Why is this tax coming?
Again, straight from the Gov.uk website, here is the reasoning behind this new legislation;

...this tax aims to increase the use of recycled plastic in plastic packaging and it is estimated that as a result of the tax the use of recycled plastic in packaging could increase by around 40%. This is equal to carbon savings of nearly 200,000 tonnes in 2022 to 2023, based on current carbon factors.
...The policy may also help to divert plastics from landfill or incineration, and drive recycling technologies within the UK.

The environmental impact that this tax will have, while unclear, has huge potential to help raise awareness of how much of our plastic is actually recycled, and how we can help save our planet by using less single-use plastic.

Oil prices and supply

Most of us have noticed that the price of oil is rising, just refuelling our cars, but that's not the only thing rising oil prices affect. Pure, virgin plastic is made from oil. So if the price of oil is increasing, that makes plastic itself more expensive to manufacture, no matter what it gets made into. Which then makes the plastic bag prices rise.

And with the Plastic Packaging Tax coming in next year, we're likely to see a reduction in manufacturing non-recycled plastic, making the virgin plastic that is manufactured more expensive to manufacture. And then, it would be heavily taxed on top of that, if it has to be imported.

Importing Plastic

Thin plastic items, like HDPE bags (extremely thin thickness, mostly used as bin liners), are often manufactured in the Far Eastern countries, which makes them expensive to import. This higher cost then ends up going down to the consumer.

A little less East, we have Turkey; a major plastic bag producer. In May 2021 the Turkish government said it would ban imports of most types of plastic waste, which could be recycled, and made into sacks. The 'plastic waste' involves polyethylene (PE) plastic used in our plastic yoghurt pots, salad bags, supermarket plastic bags and plastic film. This will make recyclable materials much more scarce in the country that produces a large amount of Europe's refuse sacks, which extends the problem - demand continuing to exceed supply and driving market costs up.

What can you do to mitigate it?

If you evaluate the bin liners and sacks that you are using, you may find you can lower your expenses by:
  - Using a bin liner that is too big or too thick for its purpose could be costing you more than it needs to, but likewise a bag that is too thin and means your staff have to double-bag waste could also be wasting resources. Please talk to us about getting the right grade of bag to be as efficient as possible.
  - For dry recycling waste in under-desk bins, bin liners are not always necessary but usually used - could these be cut out altogether?
   - Plus, there are two new products we are working on to try and reduce waste handling costs. One is to reduce the volume of waste when being disposed, one is to reduce how much plastic is used for emptying half-full bins - stay tuned!

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