Single Use Plastics directive: no clarity yet on litter bill

 

Under the Single-Use Plastics Directive, as of 1 January 2023 companies that put packaged products on the European market will have to bear the cost of litter resulting from their packaging. This is a further step in Extended Producer Responsibility. Fost Plus regrets that there is still no proper legal basis in Belgium to fulfil this additional responsibility guaranteeing that litter costs are passed on fairly and objectively.


Ambitious goals

The European Single-Use Plastics Directive stipulates that as of 2023, the producers of certain packaging will be responsible for the cost of litter resulting from their products. In practical terms, this means that the costs linked to picking up and processing litter and raising awareness of this issue will be passed on to industry.

This further expansion of producer responsibility to include single-use plastics applies for both the packaging sector and for certain other sectors whose products end up as litter. These may be cigarette ends, balloons or wet wipes, for example.

In addition, the Belgian regions have decided not to restrict this new obligation to single-use plastics, but to extend it to cover all products that end up as litter. Consequently, Belgium is going further than that which has been decided at European level and including all packaging, such as chewing gum, for example, which, according to litter analyses, accounts for a significant proportion of litter.

 

A coordinated approach

A number of European member states are talking about funding the cost involved through taxation. The Fost Plus Board of Directors believes that this approach would not bring about any (real) improvement in public cleanliness. It generates a financial flow from industry to local authorities without providing any guarantee of change or progress.

This is why the Fost Plus Board of Directors said at the end of 2021 that its aim was to play a coordinating role by building up expertise in the approach to litter and making this available to local authorities in order to ensure that the local litter policy is more successful and more efficient. In addition, this approach would make it possible to use the levers of the existing system to ensure that packaging that ends up as litter and in public rubbish bins finds its way to the recycling chain.

Nevertheless, even in the best-case scenario the litter bill will remain substantial. So Fost Plus is still working hard to determine objectively substantiated costs, which is currently not the case. (The draft texts on the transposition of the SUP Directive refer to a sum of EUR 189 million). Moreover, in our view, the fact that the claimed clean-up cost per person is three times lower for our northern neighbours than the amounts circulating here is an additional indication that the proposed amount to be charged on to industry is disproportionate.

 

Hopes for a rapid breakthrough

The packaging companies dislike the fact that their packaging ends up back in the public space, but they are also fed up of being given a hard time because of the consequences of asocial behaviour by individuals.

Fost Plus considers it perfectly natural that the packaging industry wants a guarantee of an effective and efficient approach to the costs it has to bear. The role we aim to play is therefore one of coordination and intensive cooperation with local authorities, similar to what has been happening as regards selective collection for the past 30 years.

We are monitoring the situation. Hopefully there is sufficient political courage to open the way to this innovative approach and to bring about a smooth transition so that the industry quickly obtains clarity regarding the amounts it will have to fork out, how these will be allocated among the various companies and when they will be charged.