28 July 2020 by James Langley

EU’s plastics levy plans criticised

The EU-level trade association of European plastics converters EuPC has criticised the European Union’s plans to introduce a levy on plastic waste from January 2021.

As part of the bloc’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund agreement, an €0.80/kg levy on non-recycled plastic packaging waste is to be paid by member states into the EU budget from 1 January 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).

An €0.80/kg levy on non-recycled plastic packaging waste is to be paid by member states into the EU budget from 1 January 2021

The money raised will not be directly reinvested into the industry and will instead go to the European Commission, a point of contention for EuPC.

The trade association’s managing director Alexandre Dangis said: “As the revenues of the EU plastic tax are not earmarked to be invested into the waste and recycling infrastructure, it will not increase the recycling of plastic waste in Europe.

“Instead, it will further increase the cost of plastic recycling and encourage the shift to other packaging materials with a bigger environmental impact.

“To truly increase recycling rates across Europe and protect the environment, taxation of the landfilling of plastic packaging waste would be more efficient.”

Created in 1989 and based in Brussels, EuPC represents 28 national associations and 18 sectoral organisations. The British Plastics Federation is a member of the association in the UK.

Improvement

Improving the recycling of plastics packaging requires considerable investment by the entire plastics value chain in innovation, new machinery and the ecological design of plastic packaging, EuPC says.

Further details on the tax are still to be worked out in a specific law and approved by the European Parliament and Council of the EU

With expected revenues of around €6-8 billion per year flowing into the general budget of the EU as a result of the levy, EuPC argues this money would not be available anymore to be invested in the transition towards a circular economy.

Further details on the tax are still to be worked out in a specific law and approved by the European Parliament and Council of the EU.

While much of the details remain obscure up to now, it is already clear that the member states will have large freedom in the implementation of the measures to collect the funds to be transferred to the EU, EuPC says.

The trade association contends the implementation and complexity of different schemes from country to country will lead to a host of heterogeneous measures destroying the single market.

Recovery

However, not all waste management companies share EuPC’s view.

Tomasz Mikulski is president of Polish plastic fabrication company ML Polyolefins. He said: “The decision of the European Council clearly indicates the direction of the EU policy aimed at maximising the recovery of plastics introduced into the economic circulation.”

He added the introduction of the levy means processors will be forced to make more rational decisions regarding packaging designs.

Tax

With the UK having left the EU and yet to agree a deal, it is unclear what impact the introduction of this levy will have.

In March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content would come into force in the UK in April 2022 and would be set at £200 a tonne (see letsrecycle.com story).

He said the move would help tackle the “scourge” of plastics pollution and boost the use of recycled plastics by 40%.

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