9 June 2020
The unthinkable suddenly becomes a reality. Beverage multinationals – the most responsible for the phenomenon of the plastic soup – now advocate for a tax on virgin (primary) plastic in the United States. This tax makes their plastic bottles more expensive. Why then such a tax? This tax would save the distressed recycling sector, and there would be enough recyclate to fulfill their promises to make bottles from a large proportion of recycled plastic.
The proposal can be found in the report Achieving America’s Recycling Future published in April by the Consumer Brands Association (which includes Coca-Cola and PepsiCo). The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents the oil and plastics industry, was not aware of the change in course and reacted unpleasantly surprised. Instead of a tax on virgin plastic, ACC advocates for forms of chemical recycling. However, these are still under development and controversial.
MORE RECYCLATE IN PLASTIC BOTTLES
Coca-Cola aims to use 50% recyclate by 2030 for all packaging and PepsiCo 25% by 2025. In the United States, however, barely 10% of the plastic is recycled. This is far from sufficient to meet the growing demand for recyclate. The promises were made in the context of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. This initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation from 2018 has been signed by more than 450 organizations. Together, the signatories are responsible for one-fifth of all plastic packaging in the world. Other multinationals are also struggling with a shortage of recyclate. The shortage is a global problem.
RECYCLING SECTOR CANNOT COMPETE WITH VIRGIN PLASTIC
The above-mentioned American report notes that virgin plastic is currently cheaper than recycled plastic and that a tax on virgin plastic makes it more attractive to use recycled plastic for packaging. A tax on virgin plastic has another advantage. When the raw material becomes more expensive, it is used less. That is exactly why governments say they want to participate in the fight against plastic soup.
opportunity for INTRODUCING A PLASTIC TAX IN EUROPE
The situation for the European recycling sector is not fundamentally different. State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven received an urgent letter in April. In it, the recycling sector calls for far-reaching legal measures, such as a mandatory percentage of recyclate in plastic products. In response to questions from the House of Representatives, the State Secretary said that she would support the European Commission’s proposal to formulate mandatory requirements for the content of recycled materials in products such as packaging. That proposal is in the Circular Economy Action Plan that was published last March. She didn’t comment about a possible tax on virgin plastic.
position of PLASTIC SOUP FOUNDATION
Plastic Soup Foundation has been advocating for the taxation of primary plastic for years. This promotes the reuse of plastic and, at the same time, puts a brake on the use of plastic. Maria Westerbos, director and founder of the PSF says: ‘We call on the State Secretary to work nationally and at European level to introduce such a tax. She can now even expect the support of drinks giants such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’.
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