The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has written to HM Treasury to call for all medicine-related items to be excluded from their definition of single-use plastics.

The government is currently consulting on moves to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste across industries, from production and retail to consumption and disposal.

The CCA has stated in its response to the Call for Evidence that it recognises the important role that both individuals and organisations play in reducing avoidable plastic waste and moving to a greener economy. However, single-use plastic items which are designed to ensure efficient delivery of medicine are essential by their nature and cannot easily be substituted or avoided.

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, it maintains. In time, medicine manufacturers may be able to move towards materials that are more environmentally friendly, but this is a longer-term project requiring viable alternatives that are subject to extensive testing and quality control. Some products may also never be suitably substituted, it warns.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive, commented: “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. Any direct or indirect financial strain on the NHS and pharmacy businesses from new plastic taxes simply cannot be borne at present.”

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