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Extended product fee as an environmental obligation?

Due to the need implement the new rules, a draft Act on amending the Act on the obligations of entrepreneurs with the scope to the management of certain waste and on the product fee and certain other acts (hereinafter: the Draft Act) which introduces a number of new obligations that will initially take effect from 3 July 2021. The proposed changes may introduce to consumers paying more due to the product fee that results from the implementation of Directive 2019/903 European Parliament and of the Council (EU) of 9 June 2019 on the reduction of the environmental impact of certain plastic products (hereinafter: Directive).

What is the result from the Draft Act?

The main premise of the Draft Act under discussion is that specific types of packaging will be subject to a production fee, which means that one-off packaging may not only be unprofitable but as the Draft Act indicates the trade of some of them may also be prohibited.

As we can see in the explanatory, the aim of the Draft Act is to broaden the scope of the Act to include single-use plastic products in order to prevent the negative impact of certain plastic products on the environment, human health and also to encourage the transition to a closed-loop economy. It is worth adding that it is essential to take action as soon as possible to protect the ecosystem in view of the effects that have recently been seen.

Despite the fact that restrictions on the production of plastic, are gradually being introduced, its production is steady increasing. In particular, all single-use plastic products are a general problem. To realize the scale of their production, it is worth referring to the statistics published by Plastic Europe. According to the data, the global production of plastics in Europe in 2016 was as much as 335 million tones.

Product fee and new obligations

According to Article 3c (2) of the Draft Act, the maximum rate of the fee is to be PLN 1 per unit of single-use plastic packaging, which compared with the sugar fee or ‘alcohol in the small bottle’ fee shows, that is a significant fee. It is worth to mentioning, that the single-use plastic packaging to reduction includes, i.e. beverages cups, including their lids, meal containers such as boxes, with or without lids, which are intended for immediate consumption on the spot or for takeaway and ready-to-eat meals without further processing except for beverage containers, plates or boxes and wrappers containing food.

As explained in the explanatory, the broaden of the product fee is transposes Article 4 of the Directive and its aim is to discourage consumers to purchasing single-use plastic packaging in favour of packaging and products made alternative plastics or reusable packaging and products.

Moreover, it was indicated that the maximum rate of the fee may amount to PLN 1 per unit of single-use plastic packaging, while the actual rate of the fee which is to cover the costs of managing waste from these products is to be determined by a regulation of the minister responsible for climate issues.

One cannot fails to mention the new obligation imposed on entrepreneurs who will obliged to provide purchasers with reusable packaging or packaging made from materials other than plastic.

Finally, it is worth to adding that failure to collect such a fee from entities obliged to do so will result in fines from PLN 500 to PLN 20.000.

Prohibit the placing on the market

What is more, pursuant to Article 3i of the Draft Act, marketing single-use plastic products listed in Annex No. 7 and products made of oxydegradable plastic is prohibited. Thus, referring to the content of Annex No. 7, it should be pointed that the single-use plastic products subject to the marketing ban include cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink paddle, sticks attached to balloons, containers for meals, drinks or beverage cps made of expanded polystyrene.

It it worth mentioning that on 21 April 2021 an announcement appeared on the website of the Ministry of Finance regarding the extension of the deadline for public consultation on the Draft Act (UC 73) until 5 May 2021, and therefore, any work on the Draft Act will be extended.

Although, that the Draft Act introduces new fee obligations, such measures are certainly necessary to minimize the problem of plastic use in every area. Undoubtedly, eliminating plastic completely from everyday life is not possible, but any measures to reduce its use are necessary to reduce the impact of the global problem in the future.