How Spain is implementing the Plastic Tax

On 1 January 2021, the European Union introduced a levy on non-recyclable plastic packaging waste, which requires individual countries to help combat the issue of packaging waste. Valpak International Account Manager, Lauren Shrimpton, looks at how Spain has implemented the Plastic Tax.

What is the plastic tax?

On 1 January 2021, the European Union introduced a levy on non-recyclable plastic packaging waste which requires individual countries to help combat the issue of packaging waste. The levy will be charged to EU Member States at €800 per tonne with any revenue generated being contributed to the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Plan.

Whilst some countries are paying the levy using the state budgets, Spain will be taxing businesses which will pay for the levy. Spain plan to invest €850mn of EU recovery funds on reducing single-use plastics in the period to 2035.

How is Spain approaching the tax?

The Spanish government has approved a bill which has been designed to significantly reduce both the production and consumption of single-use plastics. This bill will implement a €0.45/kg (€450 per tonne) tax on single-use plastics in packaging and a further tax on their incineration and disposal at landfill sites; this will be the responsibility of the producer. The bill was initially supposed to enter into force in July 2021, but is it now expected by mid-2022 with the tax entering into force three months after the adoption of the bill.

The initial goal is to reduce plastic bottle and fast-food packaging distribution by 50% by 2026. The Spanish government will also limit the distribution of plastic packaging by obligating vendors to add a yet-to-be determined surcharge to certain items to discourage their use. This will come into force in January 2023 and will be paid by the consumer upon purchase. The hope is that this will result in a 70% distribution reduction by 2030 in comparison to 2022.

The bill will also include targets for reducing single-use plastic consumption for items such as plastic beverage bottles, bottle caps, and food packaging intended for immediate consumption. Public facilities such as hotels and restaurants must offer clients an alternative to bottled water such as potable tap water. Producers are being encouraged to create and distribute reusable or biodegradable alternatives.

Who will be obligated?

Those who are subject to the tax are manufacturers and importers of single-use plastic packaging that will be placed onto the Spanish market. The taxable plastic products include non-reusable plastic packaging, semi-finished plastic products intended for packaging and composite packaging that contains plastic. One exemption is intra-community acquisitions or imports of single-use plastic containers where the item weight does not exceed 5 kilograms – these will not be subject to the tax.

Those who are non-Spanish taxpayers, must appoint a tax representative to represent them for the activities subject to taxation with the Tax Administration.

Once the bill is adopted, Valpak will be able to further explore how manufacturers and importers of single-use plastic placed on the Spanish market will be subject to the plastic tax.

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