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Single-use plastics ban and changes to EU packaging recycling fees

April 8th, 2019
There is growing concern about the damaging impact of plastic packaging to the global environment and this is leading to public pressure for national governments, manufacturers and the packaging recycling industry to take action, including:
  • Limiting the consumption trend for Single Use Plastics (SUP, including SUP packaging) wherever possible; and
  • Introducing financial measures which encourage manufacturers to use plastic packaging which is easier to recycle at end-of-use

Single-Use Plastics Directive

Recent studies show that SUP items represent about half of all marine litter items found on European beaches. In an effort to tackle this growing problem, on 27th March 2019 the European  Parliament approved the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

Key requirements 
This will ban SUP for which alternatives exist on the market by 2021. Such items will include:
  • Items made of oxo-degradable plastics (including packaging) which can breakdown into microplastic fragments. 
  • Single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws and cotton buds

EU Member States will also have to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029. 

The SUP Directive will also extend the “polluter pays” principle, putting more pressure on manufacturers of plastics used in particular industries (including tobacco filters, fishing gear and other pollutive products) to bear the costs for their sound environmental disposal.

Member States introduce modulated recycling fees for plastic packaging

In line with the objectives of the European Circular Economy policy and revised Waste Framework Directive, we are now seeing more Member States introduce 'modulated' fees for packaging placed on their country markets and for which packaging producers are responsible for recycling. 

Changes to French Packaging waste legislation means that, from 1 January 2019 the only active household packaging recovery organisation operating in France (CITEO) must charge 50% lower recycling fees for packaging materials which comprise at least 50% recycled material content.

Importantly, CITEO must finance this lower packaging recycling fee by increasing the recycling fees for plastic.

Under the new German Packaging law (VerpackG), from 1 January 2019 packaging recycling fees charged by recovery organisations must be based on 'ecological criteria'. 

This means lower recycling fees for packaging that is more easily recycled and that contains recycled material or renewable raw materials. 

For example, plastic packaging which contains recyclates will attract a lower recycling fee. Conversely, plastic packaging that is made from non-recyclate raw materials and packaging that cannot be easily recycled will attract higher recycling fees.

Packaging recycling fees will be adjusted by packaging recovery scheme FTI on April 1 2019 with a new fee structure for plastic packaging. 

Plastic packaging that is easy to recycle will cost less to place on the market than packaging that is more difficult to recycle. For example, packaging made from the following materials will attract a lower recycling fee:

  • PE (Polyethylene, both LDPE and HDPE)
  • PP (Polypropylene) – but not plastic film 
  • Transparent PET bottles (which are not collected under a separate deposit system)

FTI has also published a useful guidance document to help companies to decide on which plastic packaging materials to use, based on their environmental impacts.

The fee structure for paper-based packaging will also be evaluated during 2019, with a view to moving towards modulated fees for easier-to-recycle packaging.

So I sell packaged goods in Europe. How do these changes affect my company?

Achieving regulatory compliance at lowest cost 
More countries in the EU and across the world are updating and implementing Packaging Recycling Regulations. It is important that your company meets any legal requirements as well as stays ahead of the game on changes which can increase costs of compliance. EC4P offers cost-effective and legally-robust Packaging Recycling Compliance solutions for your company. We can also audit your existing packaging compliance arrangements to advise whether you are getting best value at lowest cost for the packaging materials that you place on country markets. Please contact us if you would like more information on this service and how else we can better manage your Packaging, Batteries and WEEE compliance obligations.