Politics & Legislation Waste Management

Belgian Minister Proposes Deposit Fee for Plastic Bottles

It's election time in Belgium and plastic seems to be a hot topic. Next local elections will take place in October 2018 and Flemish (Flanders) minister Joke Schauvliege wants to jump on the plastic wagon by introducing a new deposit system to reduce litter.

The Minister wants the industry to pay for the collection of packaging. Schauvliege wants to create a deposit system for plastic bottles and cans. Retailers will have to make necessary investment to organise the system.

She proposed a 0.5 EUR deposit fee per can and 1.5 EUR per bottle. Initially, she proposed 0.25 EUR per unit.

It’s uncertain whether she will have enough support in the government to go through with her decision but because it’s election time, nobody dares to stand up to this announcement for the moment.

Other measures the Minister has  planned

  • ban single use plastic bags in supermarkets in Flanders;
  • force additional responsibilities on every e-commerce company operating in Flanders (appointment of a packaging responsible);
  • set up a packaging fund with dual purpose: help finance the litter reduction/collection and increase the use of recyclable packaging.

Closing Remarks

Minister Schauvliege is not very popular in the parliament and this may come as some kind of political opportunism and PR operation. She will probably not survive the regional elections planned in 2019. The first decision she took when she was appointed was to cut down a forest to build a parking.

The ban on single use packaging is already active in Brussels and Wallonia and does probably not lead to a reduction of plastic waste. The only winners seem to be retailers who can charge expensive fees for multiple use bags. In addition, small shop like night shops do not implement the law, only the big retailers do.

The extra obligations on the e-commerce sector will not be very efficient because Belgium missed the e-commerce wave due to following reason: innovation, business and entrepreneurism are not promoted in practice; too many government layers leading to an overall business unfriendly climate; highest tax rate around the block and huge red tape. By imposing extra obligations on the few belgian e-commerce players, she will create an extra competitive advantage for the Netherland-based e-commerce players who are active in Belgium.

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