During a meeting of the European Council on July 21, 2020, it was agreed that a new tax will be applied in the EU beginning January 1, 2021 on non-recycled plastic packaging waste at a rate of €0.80 per kilogram. The tax was announced within the agreed EU recovery deal to support member states during the coronavirus pandemic, and the revenue generated by the tax is set to go directly into the EU budget. The tax is described in the agreement as being “a national contribution calculated on the weight of non-recycled plastic packaging waste with a call rate of EUR 0.80 per kilogram with a mechanism to avoid excessively regressive impact on national contributions.”

Industry association Plastic Europe has commented that the tax “could hamper circularity instead of accelerating it.” Association European Plastic Converters (EuPC) called for the revenues from the tax to be earmarked for investment into waste and recycling infrastructure, arguing that without this, the new tax “will not increase the recycling of plastic waste in Europe.” However, non-governmental organizations see the tax as a step in the right direction. The Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) commented that “the EU is doing what the federal government should have done for years: it is finally taxing environmentally harmful plastic packaging.” It argues that the tax should even be higher. “We need a price that really causes a change in direction. And we need regulations that primarily end the littering of nature and cities with unnecessary disposable products, be it disposable plastic bottles, plastic bags or disposable coffee-to-go cups.”

Additional details on the implementation of the tax still need to be developed, translated into a specific law, and then approved by the European Parliament and Council of the EU before it would come into effect.

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Karen Laird (July 22, 2020). “EU leaders hammer out Coronavirus recovery deal, including a new plastics tax.” Sustainable Plastics

EuPC (July 27, 2020). “EU Plastic Tax approved by European Council: A Danger for the EU Single Market & Recovery.”

Karen Laird (July 27, 2020). “EuPC says European plastic tax is a danger for the EU single market and recovery.” Sustainable Plastics

Plastics Europe (July 27, 2020). “Virginia Janssens: EU “Own Resources” – Plastics manufacturers call for investment in circularity as part of the EU recovery package.”

Gabriel Thoumi (August 5, 2020). “Opinion: EU recovery plan’s “Bottle Deposit Law” plastic waste levy begins in January 2021, but recycling infrastructure insufficient.” Sustainable Plastics


European Council (July 21, 2020). “Special meeting of the European Council (17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 July 2020) – Conclusions.” (pdf)