The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has called on Her Majesty’s (HM) Treasury for all medicine-related items to be excluded from its definition of single-use plastics in new efforts to address waste.
HM Treasury ran a consultation from 13 March 2018 to 18 May 2018 on potential options to change the tax system or introduce charges to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste. The government is looking across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal.
The CCA, a forum for large businesses engaged in community pharmacy, responded to the Call for Evidence on 18 May 2018 and said it recognised the important role that both individuals and organisations play in reducing avoidable plastic waste and moving to a greener economy.
Its response also said that all of its members were involved in and committed to different environmental initiatives that aim to encourage sustainability and conserve limited resources.
The CCA said that single-use plastic items, which are designed to ensure efficient delivery of medicine, are “essential by their nature and currently cannot easily be substituted or avoided”, adding that plastic was “the medium of choice for many dosing aids and healthcare products because it does not usually interact with the active ingredients and excipients contained within medicines”.
While medicine manufacturers may, in time, be able to move towards materials that are more environmentally friendly, the CCA added that “this is a longer-term project requiring viable alternatives that are subject to extensive testing and quality control”.
“Some products may also never be suitably substituted.”
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, commented: “Medicines are not ordinary consumer products, and any efforts to deliver better environmental outcomes must not have unintended consequences for patient care.”
Harrison said he hoped any policy decisions around changing the tax system or introducing charges for single-use plastics carefully consider the impact on sectors such as healthcare, including pharmacy.
“Any direct or indirect financial strain on the NHS and pharmacy businesses from new plastic taxes simply cannot be borne at present.”