Medicine-related items should be excluded from a proposed government crackdown on single-use plastics and should not attract a “plastic tax”, the Company Chemists’ Association has said. HM Treasury has recently consulted on potential options to change the tax system or to introduce charges to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste.

Are there alternatives for single-use plastics?

Plastic is used for many dosing aids and healthcare products because it does not usually interact with the active ingredients, said the CCA, and may be difficult to substitute safely.

“Medicines are not ordinary consumer products, and any efforts to deliver better environmental outcomes must not have unintended consequences for patient care. We sincerely hope that any policy decisions around changing the tax system or introducing charges for single-use plastics consider very carefully the impacts on sectors such as healthcare, including pharmacy,” commented Malcolm Harrison, CCA chief executive.

Single-use plastic items designed to ensure efficient delivery of medicine are “essential by their nature” and cannot easily be substituted or avoided, said CCA. Finding viable alternatives, subject to extensive testing and quality control, would be a "longer-term project", he said.

However, member companies are actively “involved in and committed to” a range of environmental and sustainability initiatives, he said.

Pharmacy and healthcare generally are not in a position to absorb any further taxation if a scheme was introduced, suggested Mr Harrison. “Any direct or indirect financial strain on the NHS and pharmacy businesses from new plastic taxes simply cannot be borne at present,” he said.  

 

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