What is the European plastic tax ?

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💭 Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste each year, of which only less than 30% is collected for recycling, the European Commission estimated in 2021.


The context

Through the European Green Pact, the EU wants to ensure that all packaging on its market is recyclable by 2030 to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics and to limit the use of microplastics, according to the website Toute l’Europe.


❓ What is the European plastic tax?

The plastic tax is one of EU’s new “ own resources" to the 2021-27 budget, set up in January 2021 to encourage European states to recycle better. For each kilogram of plastic packaging waste which is not recycled, the 10 richest members must pay 80 cents to the European Union - and a lower contribution for other members proportional to their wealth

In 2021, France paid 1.2 billion euros of "plastic tax" to Brussels. The country figures among lower performing members in the European Union - according to Citeo, only 28% of plastic waste is recycled in France, compared to 50% in Germany and Spain. This made for an annual total of 1.5 million tons of non-recycled packaging waste in France in 2021.

According to the European Commission's estimates, plastic tax contributions by members should bring the EU an additional 6 billion euros per year, or 4% of the European budget.


❓What is the environmental effectiveness of this contribution?

This is difficult to assess, as plastic contribution is only one of the many environmental instruments of the EU. Besides, this tax depends above all on the States’ recycling efforts. Its mechanism is based on a "bonus-malus" effect with a double incentive. A country that manages to reduce its non-recycled waste proportionally reduces the amount of its plastic contribution. But it also reduces, compared to other countries, the amount of its contribution based on its wealth. If a country manages to limit its plastic contribution, the EU-27 will have to counterbalance this reduction by increasing their contribution based on their GNI. The issue of this contribution is that it only considers non-recycled plastic packaging waste, it excludes packaging from other materials or plastic waste not coming from packaging. Yet, according to Citeo's estimates for 2019, plastic packaging represents less than a quarter (22%) of household packaging.


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