MPs want an end to “symbolic” single use plastic surcharge

The classic broodje kaas, sealed in plastic. Photo: Donald Trung Quoc Don via Wikimedia Commons

The surcharge on disposable plastics introduced earlier this year may be heading into the rubbish bin if parliament gets its way.

The charge on takeaway cups, plastic containers and other single-use plastics was meant to reduce the amount of plastic litter, which in the Netherlands amounts to some 19 million plastic cups and food packages being tossed every day. That number is supposed to be cut in half by 2026.

But government inspectors (ILT) told broadcaster NOS that the surcharge is unenforceable and susceptible to fraud, and this is something they knew before the surcharge was introduced. The ministry introduced the surcharge anyway on July 1.

Now the lower house of parliament wants to get rid of it, with a majority supporting the SP’s proposal to abolish the “plastic tax” as quickly as possible. Despite paying for plastic, consumers still throw it away, they say.

The VVD, which had agreed to the measure, now also wants to get rid of it, with VVD MP Silvio Erkens calling it “bullying consumers and entrepreneurs”. The SP says the tax does not lead to sustainability among producers.

The ILT believes the surcharge was more “symbolic legislation” and say it’s better to ban the use of disposable plastics instead of implementing complicated and unenforceable rules.

The charge has been rolled out to much confusion. The rates vary from business to business, with some companies criticized for charging too much, while others, including many supermarkets, first charging 5 cents but lowering that to a symbolic one cent after the charge ate into their profit margins.

Critics also say such low charges don’t encourage people to bring reusable plastics with them while shopping.

The ILT has concluded that it’s an impossible task to supervise the almost half a million companies and institutions that are meant to levy the plastic surcharge.

The infrastructure ministry says it’s considering the motion. A spokesman told Dutch News in August that the ministry may require businesses benefiting from single use plastic price hikes to spend the profits on environmental causes following complaints by green groups.

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