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UK mulls e-tail delivery tax to cut congestion, pollution, encourage green delivery

Published
Jun 29, 2020
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Internet shopping could get a bit more expensive if a report proves correct that the UK government is considering an extra charge linked to deliveries of online purchases to reduce both road congestion and environmentally harmful emissions.


The UK government want to encourage greener delivery options



The government is believed to be looking at a number of measures to cut the damaging impact of e-shopping that has led to a larger number of delivery vans on roads. 

And The Times reported that the Department for Transport’s scientific advisers have recommended a “mandatory charge” along similar lines to that introduced several years ago for plastic bags. Most delivery vans are diesel-powered, which has huge implications for emissions levels, although grants are available for the purchase of electric vans.

The DfT’s report said that the easy availability of free and fast delivery by e-tailers and free returns has led to “unnecessary over-ordering". The recent introduction of pay-later services, under which consumers don’t pay upfront and only pay for what they keep, has added to the issue, as has the introduction of same-day and even 90-minute delivery options. 

It believes too many consumers are ordering items they’d never have been likely to buy and therefore sending back too many goods. It wants to “encourage more sustainable behaviour”.

If a charge were to be introduced, it’s unlikely to happen quickly with the DfT potentially launching a public consultation on the measures, which could take some time.

Figures cited in the report showed that annual nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vans jumped 43% between 2007 and 2017, while emissions from other vehicles fell. And vans accounted for a quarter of NOx road transport emissions in 2017, much higher than HGVs.

The DfT didn’t have any figures for emissions later than that, but the assumption is that they're higher as pay-later and free returns have expanded since 2017. It would be interesting to see the impact of vans during the lockdown after the government actively encouraged shoppers to buy online.

A large number of retailers have been working on greener delivery solutions, including store collection, as well as delivery via electric vehicle or bicycle.

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