Campaigners in North Devon say single-use plastic tax would be ‘step in the right direction’ but is a ‘soft approach’.

Campaigners fighting for North Devon’s coastline to become plastic free have welcomed the Chancellor’s budget announcement on single-use plastics.

Philip Hammond today called for evidence on taxing and charging for single-use plastics, including packaging and polystyrene take-away boxes.

Claire Moodie, of the Plastic Free North Devon campaign, said: “It is an absolute step in the right direction and is great to see government finally taking some action on the plastic war, but it is still very much a soft approach.

“The bottom line is, it is completely unsustainable for us to keep producing plastic at the rate we are doing and it needs to be drastically stemmed quickly – and I doubt this tax will force that to happen.

“The government need to look at how they can help businesses switch to more sustainable products and be encouraging them to do so by providing incentives.

“However it is great to see that our bottom up approach with community engagement, increasing awareness and making change is finally being met with the rule makers, it gives us that extra push to keep on doing what we are doing (they are listening).”

The announcement has been met with some scepticism.

Television personality Ben Fogle said this morning he was not convinced a tax on single-use plastic was ‘the way forward’.

The announcement from Mr Hammond forms part of the Government’s 25-year environment strategy and comes after the plastic carrier bag levy and a ban on microbeads.

There are concerns that more than a million birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Some 12 million tonnes of waste enter the world’s oceans every year - a rubbish truck every minute - and the problem is so bad, vast floating areas of plastic have formed in the world’s seas, including one in the Pacific, the size of France.

It is also a problem closer to home, with the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year in the UK enough to fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls - and one in three fish caught in the English Channel containing pieces of plastic, the Government said.