How to apply the rules for disposable plastic cups and containers

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You have heard about the rules for disposable plastic cups and single-use food containers. But what do the rules mean? And how do you apply the rules in your situation? This article explains.

To whom do the rules for single-use plastics apply?

The rules for single-use plastic cups and containers apply to your situation if you run:

  • a hospitality business, such as a restaurant, cafeteria, snack bar, or food delivery business;
  • a company restaurant or sports canteen;
  • a foodtruck;
  • an office;
  • an event, for example a festival or open-air concert;
  • a shop that sells products to go, such as a gas station or supermarket that sells food and drink for direct or to go consumption.

What rules apply if I sell food to go as well as on location?

You must ask your customers if they want to take out the food, or consume it on the premises.

  • If they want to eat or drink on location, you must provide reusable cups, plates, or containers.
  • If the customer wants food or drinks to go, you must offer them a reusable alternative. The customer can then decide: a reusable alternative, or pay extra for a single-use plastic cup or container.

Do the rules also apply if the food cannot be eaten straightaway?

If you sell food or drink that can be consumed on the road in single-use plastic cups or containers, the rules apply. This includes food that has to be peeled or washed before it is consumed. Your customer can do this on the road. The rules for single-use plastics do not apply if the food or drink requires further preparation. For example heating, cooking, or baking.

What are single-use plastic cups and containers?

  • Cups: The rules apply to all plastic cups intended for single use. It includes cups partially made of plastic. For example, paper coffee cups with a plastic protection layer.
  • Containers: Food packaging from which the food can be eaten directly, without further preparation of the food. The container is (partly) made of plastic and is meant to be used only once. For example: a plastic container for fries or salads, or protion packs for nuts, vegetables, or dairy products. It does not include bags or wrappers. For example, a bag to put fries in, or a sandwich wrapper.
  • Carrier bags: Free single-use plastic carrier bags have been banned since 2016. There are some situations in which you are allowed to give a thin plastic bag, for example to protect unwrapped foodstuffs.

Do the rules also apply to bioplastics?

The rules for single-use plastics also apply to cups and containers made of bioplastics. Bioplastics are plastics made of biologically degradable or renewable materials. They are just as harmful to the environment as other types of plastic.

Do I have to charge my customers for single-use plastics?

If you use single-use cups or containers for serving food and drink to your customers, you have to charge them. Also for single-use plastic carrier bags.

However, you also have to offer them alternative packaging. Possible alternatives are:

  • Bring-your-own, cups or containers brought by your customer;
  • A deposit on your plastic cups, containers, or packaging. When your customer returns the packaging, they are given back their deposit;
  • A returns system of your own devising.

Inform your customers

You have to inform your customers that bringing their own cup or food container is an option. Or that you offer an alternative that can be returned.

One way of doing so is hanging up a poster. The government has produced special posters for several types of food and drink, for example fries, coffee, milkshakes. You can download these in Dutch and English.

How much do I charge my customers for single-use cups and containers?

You determine how much to charge your customers for a cup or container. The government advises these prices:

  • €0.25 for cups;
  • €0.50 for a meal ( this may consist of several containers);
  • €0.05 for pre-packed fruits, vegetables, nuts, and portion packs.

These prices are based on consumer research (in Dutch) conducted in 2023.

Do I have to pay VAT on the price I charge my customers?

You have to pay VAT on the sales price of the cups and containers. The VAT tariff depends on the product in the packaging. For example, the VAT rate for coffee and soft drinks is 9%. The 21% rate applies to alcholic drinks.

Exceptions for food and drinks served on location

You are not allowed to offer your customers single-use plastic cups and containers for food and drink to be consumed on location. For example, in the company restaurant, in the office, in a restaurant or snack bar, or at a festival. You must use reusable cups and containers.

There are a few exceptions to the rules. In certain circumstances, it may be difficult or impossible to charge your customers for the single-use plastics in which you serve food and drinks on location. An example of this can be an open-air event or a care home. You can apply for a special exemption (in Dutch) from the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport, ILT).

You are allowed to use single-use plastic products if they can be recycled for food packaging purposes. At the moment, this only goes for cups or food packaging made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate). You must notify the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport, ILT) if you want to make use of this option. A condition is that you collect the materials for high-grade recycling yourself. The percentage you have to (demonstrably) collect will increase from 75% (2024) to 90% (2027).

Care homes and secured institutions are still allowed to use single-use cups and containers. This is necessary to comply with hygiene and safety regulations. It only applies to the sections where patients are taken care of. The ban does apply in public sections of these institutions.

Some municipalities have stricter rules for events. These can be found in their APV (General Municipal By-Law). For example, the APV may state that you must provide reusable cups. If so, the exception for businesses that collect single-use plastics for high-grade recycling does not apply to you. There may also be provisions about the reuse of cups in your event or market licence.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact Rijkswaterstaat