New green tax in Spain on single use packaging

Inappropriate disposal of a single use beverage container in Germany

On June 2nd, 2020 the Spanish Counsel of Ministers approved the Estrategia Española de Economía Circular (Spanish Circular Economy Strategy, EEEC) and a new waste draft bill that will make separate collection of residues mandatory in the future. The Fourth Vice President of Spain and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Socialist Teresa Ribera, indicated that it was the right moment, as the debate about economic recovery and reactivation of employment had been initiated. The Spanish government justified its decision because «we follow recommendations made by the European Commission, which in numerous reports pointed out that regarding green taxation, Spain has some scope of action.»

Transposing the 2019 European Single Use Plastics Directive, the draft among other measures stipulates that from January 1st, 2023 on, cafeterias, bars and restaurants will have to charge for every plastic cup and lid. At the same time, they will be obligated to provide free tap water to their customers.

Beginning on July 3rd, 2021 plastic cutlery, tooth picks, plates, straws and stirrers, as well as containers and cups for food and drinks made of expanded polystyrene, including lids and caps, will be banned from the market. Balloon sticks are affected too, except those for industrial and professional use that are not supposed to be distributed to consumers.

With an expected revenue of 724 million euros, an indirect special tax of 0.45 euros per kilogram will be imposed on the production or import of single use plastic packages. It will also apply to food for immediate consumption, including fast food containers on the premises or takeaway service, like boxes with or without lid. Taking 2022 as a reference, sales of these products will have to be reduced by 50% and 70% in 2026 and 2030, respectively. On January 1st, 2023 free distribution of these articles to clients will become illegal. In that sense, reusable alternatives or other non-plastic materials need to be found.

From next summer on, anything produced from oxo-degradable plastic (which over time fragments into smaller particles), as well as cosmetics and detergents containing microplastics will be outlawed. Besides that, there will be incentives to reduce food waste by improving the channels it can be donated. The use of non-bottled beverages will be fostered by increasing the number of water dispensers at public roads and buildings. Last, but not least, random garbage dumping will carry fines between 1,000 and two million euros, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Although it only represents a long overdue step, it’s still good news for a country where environment awareness has a long way to go.

P.D.: My father used to say that during the Franco era bars were required to provide a free glass of tap water to anybody requesting it. It seems that slowly we are travelling back in time…


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