- The European Union (EU) will propose a potential tax on plastic bags and plastic packaging in an effort to reduce usage, as reported by Bloomberg.
- The proposed tax would help fill a budget shortfall and help keep plastic out of the ocean, according to EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger. “What we wish to do is reduce the total volume of plastic in the environment," he said. The tax would help make up some of the lost money from the United Kingdom, which is expected to leave the European Union this year, as reported by the BBC.
- The details of how to apply the tax are pending and it hasn't been decided whether manufacturers or consumers would bear the brunt of the obligation. Lawmakers will also look at possible exemptions, such as packaging that is necessary for hygiene or safety.
A plastic tax for residents of the EU would be the largest of its kind in the world, covering more than 500 million inhabitants, though China has also placed serious restrictions on thin plastic bags. If a tax is implemented, and effective at discouraging use, it could make a serious dent in the number of plastic bags used annually.
Independently of the EU, the UK is considering a tax on all single-use plastics in the name of environmental protection and has also seen reduction results from its own bag fee. So, even when Brexit happens, it is entirely possible that most of the European continent could have some type of tax on single-use plastics in the near future.
Trying to cut plastic use in light of China's import restrictions has become a more popular idea in recent months. For years, China has been the world's largest purchaser of scrap and recycled plastic, though that appears to be changing. Reducing the amount of plastic used in Europe or the UK could help the region combat the material stockpiling that has been reported in some parts of the U.S. Though it is worth noting that Suez UK, a major recycler in the EU, recently said it has not shipped any material to China since April 2017 and has instead been developing other markets.
It is yet unclear whether an EU-wide tax on plastic material will be as controversial as similar laws are, at times, in the U.S. However, pushback to an Italian ban on plastic bags for produce could be seen as a signal of potential opposition for supporters of a broader policy.