Packaging and single-use products – new obligations and restrictions
At the beginning of February, a draft amendment of the Act on the obligations of entrepreneurs with regard to the management of certain waste and the product fee, as well as certain other acts (“Draft”) was passed to the Lower Chamber of Parliament (Polish: Sejm). The proposed amendments result from the required implementation of the so-called EU SUP Directive, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of certain plastic products.
Although the deadline for the implementation of the SUP Directive expired on 3 July 2021, the relevant legislation were not implemented in to the Polish legal system until today, which led to uncertainty among manufacturers and entrepreneurs trading single-use and packaged products.
What do the amendments concern?
Along with the introduction and unification of legal definitions and regulation of obligations of retail and wholesale trade units or catering units, the Draft introduces a number of obligations and prohibitions for entrepreneurs introducing products made of plastic into the market.
Amendments apply among others to:
- plastic bottles up to 3 litres,
- disposable hygiene items, or
- food containers,
which are all considered as single-use plastic products.
The Draft does not apply to single-use plastic products that are designed and manufactured to be reusable for the same purpose in the future (e.g., reusable plastic cups marketed as part of a refillable system).
Among other things, the Draft introduces a number of definitions which are relevant to determine the entities to which the obligations will apply, including definitions of:
- introduction into the market, which is understood as the first supply of a particular product on the territory of the country in the course of business activities, whether in return for payment or free of charge, for the purpose of distribution, consumption, use or application, including for own use, and
- plastic, which is understood as a material consisting of a polymer to which additives or other substances may have been added and which can function as the main structural component of final products, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified.
New prohibitions and obligations for entrepreneurs introducing products into the market
The Draft prohibits introducing designated single-use plastic products into the market, including but not limited to disposable cutlery, plates, straws and certain types of container.
In addition, the Draft imposes an obligation on an entrepreneur to properly label particular single-use plastic products (e.g., hygienic pads) so that it is clear that the product is made of plastic. The positioning, size and design of the packaging labels are defined in EU regulations.
Last but not least, from 1 July 2024, introducing beverage containers that are single-use plastic bottles of volumes of up to 3 litres will only be possible if their caps and lids are attached to these containers during the intended use stage of the beverage.
Fee payment obligation
Finally, the Draft imposes an obligation on an entrepreneur introducing certain single-use plastic products into the market (e.g., meal containers or beverage containers with a capacity of up to three litres) to cover the cost of collecting waste arising from these products or products of the same type from public waste collection systems, including the costs of infrastructure and its operation, the costs of cleaning up, transport and processing of this waste. This obligation is to be fulfilled in the form of an annual fee. The fee will be calculated as the product of the charge rate and, respectively, the weight or the number of the products introduced into the market during the calendar year. The charge rates for specific types of single-use plastic products are not yet known.
We will follow the legislative process and keep you updated on any further changes and law developments.
If you have any questions, please contact our experts Aleksandra Kurecka and Anna Zmitrowicz.