Michelle Norman is Director of External Affairs and Sustainability at SBF GB&I. This is a sponsored post by SBF GB&I.

Businesses have faced many challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, but as we move towards economic recovery, we have the opportunity to build back better and deliver a green economy. That’s why Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) has this week written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge there are no further delays to the passage of the UK’s Environment Bill through Parliament and request urgent investment into the UK’s recycling infrastructure through the plastic packaging tax.

As part of our company’s “Growing for Good” vision, we are committed to using more sustainable packaging, eliminating unrecyclable and excessive packaging from our supply chain and collaborating with innovative partners to look at new ways to manage plastic waste.

We led the soft drinks industry in creating the first ready-to-drink bottle from 100 per cent recycled plastic for Ribena in 2007. And last year, Ribena went further and became the UK’s largest soft drinks brand to use bottles which are made from 100 per cent recycled material and are 100 per cent bottle-to-bottle recyclable, a model we are seeking to replicate across all our brands. By 2030 we plan to have fully moved away from virgin plastic that is derived from fossil fuels, only using plastic that has come through a recycling process.

To realise our ambitions, we need to invest in innovation, but we also need a rapid increase in the domestic supply of food-grade quality recycled material, one of the reasons why we share Government’s goal of creating a fully circular plastics economy.

Changes to the UK’s collection and recycling infrastructures are desperately needed to help deliver the high-in-demand domestic supply of food-grade quality recycled plastic that UK manufacturers need. That’s why we have always been concerned about the scheduling of the Government’s proposed resources and waste reforms.

The plastic packaging tax is scheduled to come into force in April 2022, at least 12 months before the infrastructure changes delivered through Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reform are currently expected to be introduced. These infrastructure changes are essential in addressing the lack of domestic supply UK manufacturers currently face. Any further delay in the changes further widens this gap. That’s why, ahead of this year’s Budget and forthcoming Finance Bill, we are urging the Chancellor to close the gap between the introduction of this tax and implementation of the DRS and EPR reform.

Our ambition at SBF GB&I is to help realise a sustainable circular economy. Plastic is versatile and lightweight, and it offers convenience for consumers. As a society we have historically used plastic poorly, but we are confident that through the Environment Bill and other measures it’s possible to turn this around and move to a world where plastic is used responsibly. In order to do so, it is vital that bottles are recycled and that the recycled material is then used to manufacture new bottles in turn – a truly circular system.

The plastic packaging tax should, therefore, be used to build a genuine circular economy within the UK, so that we are using our own resources to the fullest. That’s why, whether it is rescheduled or not, we are urging the Chancellor to ringfence the plastic tax’s revenue, in order to kick-start the investment and changes necessary in the UK’s recycling infrastructure to provide the collection and supply of recycled material the market is demanding.

We believe in the principle that manufacturers need to be given a fair chance to include recycled content in their products. That’s why we are also urging an immediate review and changes to food contact material regulations which are preventing food and drink manufacturers from including recycled material in some essential and non-replicable packaging components.

Thanks to the policies proposed in the Environment Bill, the UK has the opportunity to lead the world in its sustainability commitments and ambitions. As a company, we look forward to playing our full part in ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it.