Recent examples of Plastic Packaging Regulations
Plastic packaging is one of the biggest concerns of our society. Plastic represents a valuable ally in multiple applications, such as food packaging, cosmetics, beverage, retail, and many others. However, it has also become a curse. Plastic packaging material flows are mostly linear, meaning that more than 50% of the plastic produced is designed to be used only once , ending up in landfills, or even worse, in the forests or the ocean.
by Diana Tamayo
Plastic is a problem that scaled up in the early 1950s. While it started with manageable amounts, today, the production of plastic waste is more than 300 million tons per year, according to UNEP sources. Regrettably, this problem will worsen because of all plastic packaging; only 14% is recycled. If humankind and business as usual continue at this rate, the future does not look promising.
While moving beyond and trying to overcome this, many local and national governments are creating regulations to reduce single-use plastics, increase recycling rates, and improve the disposal of plastic waste.
The UK case.
Such is the case of the UK, which is imposing the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) from April 2022. The objective of this new policy is to encourage the use of recycled plastic materials. The new imposed tax will incentivize manufacturers to at least recycle 30% of all plastic packaging produced in or imported into the UK. Those who cannot meet the 30% minimum of recycled plastic will have to pay a tax of approximately £200/metric ton of plastic packaging materials .
Aiming to create a higher demand for recycled plastics and looking forward to reducing incineration or landfills as final disposition, the UK announced this tax in 2018. This measure is intended to impact more than 20,000 manufacturers and importers within the UK. However, to mitigate the consequences for small producers, manufacturers, and importers of less than 10 tons of plastic packaging per year and packaging that is not predominantly plastic by weight, they are exempted from this tax.
The UK expects to increase recycled plastic packaging by around 40%, estimating savings of 200,000 CO2 tons between 2022 and 2023.
The European Union case.
As part of the European Green Deal, the European Union implemented a plastic tax. As stated in the Green Deal: "The Commission will develop requirements to ensure that all packaging in the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable manner by 2030.” 
This regulation applies directly to countries. It started in early 2021 and set a charge on plastic packaging waste that has not been recycled. The rate is 0.80 €/kg of plastic, calculated on the basis of information published in Eurostat . This tax is part of a bundle of regulations focused on carbon-intensive products. While its main objective is to promote recycling and reduce the amount of waste generated, some European countries are covering this taxation from their own budget, preventing producers and consumers from taking responsibility and discouraging recycling.
The silver lining is that some European Union member states are now planning to enforce some contributions or taxes to fulfill the Green Deal requirements. Some examples are:
- From 2022, Spain will charge 0.80 €/kg for all non-reusable plastic packaging and 0.45 €/kg if they contain recycled plastic .
- In 2023, Italy is planning to tax 0.45 €/kg on plastic packaging with some exceptions for compostable and recycled plastics .
- Since 2019, The Netherlands has created a Plastic Pact to generate agreements with producers and companies for plastic packaging and products .
Other cases around the world.
Different cases worldwide are looking to establish fees or taxes to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics. However, the regulations have mostly focused on plastic bags and beverage containers.
In Latin America, there have been some bans and restrictions, resulting in new legislations, which could eventually become a tax or a levy to encourage the use of recycled materials. Some examples are:
- Grenada restricted the imports of single-use plastics, such as Styrofoam, since 2018. Soon afterwards, the country incorporated a ban on these plastics and in plastic bags, with plans to include other single-use plastics based on consultation with different stakeholders .
- Mexico included a tax of 0.1 Mexican pesos (0.43 Euro cents) per straw or plastic bag used. Additionally, it contains incentives in different states to use recycled materials in packaging .
- Costa Rica has a law proposal to establish different tax levels depending on the type of plastic used, ranging from 10% to 25% of the price. However, it has not been well received by the private sector and the general public due to the repercussions that the regulation may have in the market .
There is still a long way to go in order to achieve the transition towards the well-known term "Zero waste,” specifically for plastic packaging materials. Governments, industry, and the general public need to join forces to fulfill this goal. All the stakeholders need to be aligned and collaborate in the sustainability pathway.
Successful proposals and plans to achieve a paradigm shift and transition to a circular economy have been lacking; however, these regulations can be a good start for this change. Actions like taxes, fees, and contributions can accelerate this transition, and with that, the consumers will have different options of recycled plastics or compostable plastics in the future.
1. UNEP, 2018. Beat Plastic Pollution. Recovered from: https://www.unep.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/
2. UK Government, 2022. Introduction of Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022. Recovered from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/introduction-of-a-new-plastic-packaging-tax/introduction-of-a-new-plastic-packaging-tax
3. European Commission, 2019. The European Green Deal. Brussels. Recovered from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/european-green-deal-communication_en.pdf
4. European Commission, 2021. Plastics own resource. Recovered from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/eu-budget/long-term-eu-budget/2021-2027/revenue/own-resources/plastics-own-resource_en
5. Boletín Oficial de las Cortes Generales de España, 2021. Proyecto de Ley de residuos y suelos contaminados. Recovered from: https://www.congreso.es/public_oficiales/L14/CONG/BOCG/A/BOCG-14-A-57-3.PDF
6. Martina Liaci, 2021. La Plastic Tax è legge dello Stato. Recovered from: https://www.diritto.it/la-plastic-tax-e-legge-dello-stato/
7. Kingdom of Netherlands, 2020. European Plastics Pact. Recovered from: https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2020/03/06/european-plastics-pact
8. National Portal of the Government of Grenada, 2018. It’s now illegal to import Styrofoam into Grenada. Recovered from: https://gov.gd/mocr/its-now-illegal-import-styrofoam-grenada
9. Senado de la República de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, 2019. Iniciativa con proyecto de decreto que expide la ley del impuesto federal sobre las bolsas de plástico de un solo uso.Recovered from: https://infosen.senado.gob.mx/sgsp/gaceta/64/1/2019-03-27-1/assets/documentos/Inic_MC_Bolsas_plastico_.pdf
10. IICE, Instituto de Investigaciones de Ciencias Económicas en Costa Rica, 2019. Impacto económico del Impuesto al plástico, Proyecto de ley No. 21159. Recovered from: https://www.ucr.ac.cr/medios/documentos/2019/informe_impuesto_plastico.pdf
published: , 1|2022
Keywords: Material Recovery, Resource management, Plastics, United Kingdom
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