The pharmaceutical industry should not be included in a drive to cut down on single-use plastic waste, as it could put extra strain on the NHS and negatively impact patient care, according to a lobbying group.
HM Treasury carried out a consultation between March and May 2018 to look at ways of changing the tax system and potentially introducing charges in a bid to reduce the amount of disposable plastic being produced and used.
It wants to target the whole of the supply chain, including production and retail, with the prospect of levies being introduced for companies that do not adhere to recycling standards and use too much plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down.
However, the Company Chemists' Association implored the Treasury not to include plastics within the pharmacy and pharmaceutical industries in its potential new system of taxation and charges, as viable alternatives are not yet widely available.
It warned that although organisations and individuals do want to move towards a more sustainable future and are already committed to environmental initiatives, materials to replace plastics would require extensive testing and quality control.
The CCA said many plastic items are "essential by their nature and currently cannot easily be substituted or avoided" since they do not interfere with drugs.
In addition, the NHS is currently ill-equipped to deal with any additional strain on its financial resources that may arise from fines or levies, the CCA pointed out.
For these reasons, the organisation urged the Treasury to carefully consider the impact on the healthcare industry of changing the tax system for single-use plastics and called for it to be separated from other sectors in terms of its responsibilities.
Plastics revolutionised the pharmaceutical industry when they were first introduced, as they were thinner, lighter, less breakable and cheaper than glass, meaning they could be transferred from place to place more easily.