Potential taxes on the use of plastics in medical products ‘could not be borne’ by pharmacy businesses, a trade association has warned.

Company Chemist Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said that any direct or indirect financial strain on the NHS and pharmacy businesses from a potential tax on single-use plastic items simply ‘cannot be borne at present’.

The call for action comes after the Treasury consulted stakeholders in March on how changes to the tax system and charges on single-use plastics could tackle wastage and make the UK a greener economy.

In a written letter, the CCA argued that the Treasury should exempt single-use plastic medical items from the tax system as they are ‘essential by their nature and cannot easily be substituted’.


‘Unintended consequences’


Mr Harrison added: ‘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.'


Reasons for using plastics


The CCA’s response to the Treasury’s consultation read: […] ‘Plastic is 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.

Even though some plastic products may never be suitably substituted, the CCA argued, drug manufacturers ‘may be able to move towards materials that are more environmentally friendly’ based on a long-term project – which would require viable alternatives subject to extensive testing and quality control – it said.

According to the Government, the UK produces millions of tons of single-use plastic waste, resulting in ‘significant financial and environmental costs’.