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Government denies ‘nappy tax’ plans

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Written by: Emma Lunn
31/08/2021
News reports over the weekend suggested that families could face a tax on disposable nappies in a bid to stamp out single-use plastic.

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has dismissed rumours that the cost of disposable nappes could increase in a bid to force parents to switch to reusable alternatives.

The @DefraGovUK Twitter account Tweeted: “The @DailyMailUK story on disposable nappies is not true – there are no plans to place a tax on nappies.”

The government has already banned plastic straws, stirrers, and microbeads. Shoppers have had to pay for plastic bags since 2015, with the cost doubling from 5p to 10p per bag in May this year.

The Daily Mail ran a story quoting a ‘Whitehall source’ who reportedly said: “The next single-use plastic item we are looking at is nappies. But you couldn’t ban them – that would be too tough for parents. It would need to take some form of a tax.”

According to recycling charity Wrap, about three billion nappies are thrown away each year, representing an estimated 2% to 3% of all household waste. The charity says that by the time one baby is potty trained he or she could use 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies. In comparison, a baby only needs around 20 to 30 modern ‘real nappies’ and these can also be used by any siblings that come along.

Wrap says that although reusable nappies cost a few pounds each initially and need to be laundered, they can save parents from £200 to £500 over two-and-a-half years for their first baby and even more if re-used for subsequent children.

However, the idea of reusable nappies was heavily criticised by parents on social media.

Tweets on the subject included: “Genuinely, I think having to wash and dry reusable nappies would have pushed me over the edge as a new mum. Two-bed flat in winter no tumble dryer constant washing already. Couldn’t have done it,” and “I always reckon nappies should be the last single-use plastic to be criticised. No one who *ever* uses any form of ready meal takeaway or bagged fruit/veg should feel comfortable criticising disposable nappies.”

Another parent Tweeted: “I can’t help thinking this was dreamt up by men who never washed a nappy.”

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