The European Union's deal on a coronavirus recovery package to help hard-hit member countries also includes a new tax on plastic packaging waste.
The 750 billion euro ($857 billion) Next Generation EU Coronavirus recovery fund has grants and low interest loans available for those nations hit hardest by the combination of a sagging economy and COVID-19.
One component of the recovery package is a new tax on plastic packaging waste.
The tax was an idea first floated in 2018 by former EU-Commissioner for Budget, Günther Oettinger, who saw it as a means to plug a Brexit gap in the budget, and was revived in February in the new budget proposal submitted by EU Council President Charles Michel.
The tax would begin Jan. 1 and will take the form of "a national contribution calculated on the weight of non-recycled plastic packaging waste with a call rate of 0.80 euros per kilogram with a mechanism to avoid excessively regressive impact on national contributions."
Proceeds will flow directly into the EU budget.
However, the use of the revenue from the plastics tax has drawn criticism, as it will not be earmarked for measures relating to plastics waste. Opponent say that would essentially have "close to zero direct effect on the circular economy goals," as Martin Engelmann pointed out in a LinkedIn post.
Jürgen Resch, of the German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) hailed the decision, saying that "The EU is doing what the federal government should have done for years: it is finally taxing environmentally harmful plastic packaging."
In his view, however, the tax should be even higher. "We need a price that really causes a change in direction. And we need regulations that primarily end the littering of nature and cities with unnecessary disposable products, be it disposable plastic bottles, plastic bags or disposable coffee-to-go cups," he said, in a statement issued July 21.
His organization would prefer to tax virgin plastic used to produce packaging, so, when the plastic enters circulation, seeing this as a far more effective approach. In addition, DUH says a tax of at least 20 cents should be levied on "particularly problematic disposable items such as plastic bottles, plastic bags or coffee-to-cups."
But in announcing the agreement, EC President Ursula von der Leyden said: "Europe's recovery will be green. The new budget will power the European Green Deal. It will accelerate the digitalisation of Europe's economy. Thanks to Next Generation EU, national reforms will be boosted. We invest in Europe's future."