EU to Propose Plastic-Bag Tax as China Curtails Waste Imports

The European Union plans to propose a tax on plastic bags and packaging to help fill a budget gap and “in the interest of the world’s oceans,” the bloc’s budget chief said.

“What we wish to do is reduce the total volume of plastic in the environment,” EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in Brussels on Wednesday. “We are going to be proposing the possibility of introducing a tax on plastics to incentivize the reduced use of plastic packaging.”

Oettinger pointed to a move by China to curb imports of plastic waste and other scrap for recycling as helping to spur the EU’s move. China accounted for half of the world’s plastic scrap imports in 2017, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries trade group.

“Since Jan. 1 of this year, China has closed its markets to plastic waste and will no longer accept plastic waste for reprocessing,” Oettinger said. “We have to ensure that we reduce the quantity of plastic used in Europe.”

Oettinger said the details of how to apply the tax are still to be decided.

“We have to look how this can best be approached -- would it be manufacturers who would have to pay up at the beginning of the production cycle, or would it be at the end of the consumption chain.”

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