No more 10 cent surcharge for plastic containers or cups? The levy on disposable plastic is temporarily suspended.
The mandatory tax on plastic disposable cups and containers is temporarily halted. Starting from January, the inspection will no longer check whether sellers are charging customers a surcharge. The tax, also referred to by opponents as the ‘nuisance tax,’ faced significant resistance. In a motion, the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) called on the government to abolish the surcharge, and State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen (Environment, CDA) partially agrees, as announced in a press release. While she does not want to completely abolish the levy, she instructs the Inspection for the Living Environment and Transport to temporarily stop enforcing the rule from January 1. This essentially means that retailers can decide whether or not to collect the tax.
In line with the decision not to enforce the plastic tax temporarily, the government also temporarily expands the options for customers to receive single-use cups and containers for on-site consumption. This applies to packaging that consists of a small percentage of plastic and can be recycled.
The first motion requests the government to allow disposable cups and containers if they contain a maximum of five percent plastic, can be 100 percent recycled, and demonstrably meet the collection percentages specified in the ministerial regulation. The second motion requests the government to use a broader definition of high-quality recycling, where minimal loss of quantity, quality, or function is acceptable.
Both motions represent a significant expansion of the exception to the requirement of using reusable cups and containers for on-site consumption. For example, more than 4.4 billion disposable cups are used annually for on-site consumption, with over 4 billion being coffee cups, mainly made of paper or cardboard with a plastic layer. These currently do not fall within the exception, but they are expected to meet the conditions of the proposed expanded exception. Consequently, the execution of the motion would allow for much more use of disposable products.
A final decision on the tax is left to the successor of the outgoing minister. She emphasizes that the new cabinet must have the option to use the instrument again. The rules regarding disposable plastic are crucial for European objectives. The Netherlands aims to reduce plastic waste by 40% compared to 2022 by 2026, and these rules are established to achieve that goal, according to Heijnen. “If these essential elements of the regulations are now scrapped, the goal will not be achieved. The European obligation remains in force in the meantime.”
Heijnen continues: “With the approach I am choosing now, my successor in a new cabinet has maximum freedom to make a choice. In any case, we must strive for a serious reduction in disposable plastics. I urgently call on businesses, organizations, locations, and local governments to follow the rules and make the necessary transition from disposable to reusable.”
Therefore, Heijnen maintains the obligation for sellers to offer customers a reusable alternative, as FC Volendam did with the introduction of sustainable hardcups during matchdays instead of single-use plastic cups. Retailers must also accept that customers bring their own cups or containers. The government will evaluate the regulations in 2024, taking into account the experiences and points of attention from the initial period of the new rules.
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