The European Union is to introduce a levy on plastic waste from January 2021 as part of the bloc’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund agreement.

From 1 January 2021, a levy of €0.80 per kilogram (€800 a tonne) will be applied for products, “with a mechanism to avoid excessively regressive impact on national contributions”.

Proceeds from the levy will go directly to the EU, rather than the governments which collect them.

A document from the General Secretariat of the Council to Delegations, published on 21 July, reads: “The Union will over the coming years work towards reforming the own resources system and introduce new own resources.

“As a first step, a new own resource based on non-recycled plastic waste will be introduced and apply as of 1 January 2021.”

It went on to say the tax will be “composed of a share of revenues from a national contribution calculated on the weight of nonrecycled plastic packaging waste”.

An agreement on the recovery fund and the EU’s long-term spending plans was reached by heads of state and government at a meeting in Brussels on 21 July.

“A new own resource based on non-recycled plastic waste will be introduced and apply as of 1 January 2021”

EU General Secretariat

Touching on other measures the EU may introduce as part of efforts to raise funds to pay back the stimulus package, the document said: “The Commission will put forward a proposal on a revised ETS [Emissions Trading System] scheme, possibly extending it to aviation and maritime.

“[We will] work towards the introduction of other own resources, which may include a Financial Transaction Tax. The proceeds of the new own resources introduced after 2021 will be used for early repayment of Next Generation EU borrowing.”

This will mean producers will be charged per gram of unrecyclable plastic they use, as opposed to minimum content regulations as proposed in the UK.

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 story).

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

As part of the withdrawal agreement, the UK was to follow rulings from the EU, including rules passed down by the Commission and the European courts.

However, after the transition period ends at the start of 2021, the government has already agreed the Great Repeal Bill, which enables the transposition of directly applicable already-existing EU law into UK law.

Aspects of the UK’s future relationship, including some trading laws, are currently being thrashed out during negotiations.

Of the €750 billion pandemic recovery fund, €390 billion will be allocated to individual EU states as grants, with each country receiving funds proportionate to the impact of the pandemic on their economy.

The remaining €360 billion will be loans with as yet unspecified repayment conditions.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “By standing united – 27 member states backing the Commission – we raise money on the capital market to fight the worst economic crisis ever together.”

To defray the cost of the programme, the bloc is to increase the revenue it collects with the introduction of the levy on plastic waste.

The European Commission is also preparing proposals for a digital tax and a carbon border adjustment mechanism that would come into place in 2023.
23 July 2020

See also - Breaking the Plastic Wave