Single-use plastics: these are the rules

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Rijkswaterstaat
Rijkswaterstaat

The government is taking measures to reduce single-use plastics. As a producer, you sometimes have to pay for cleaning up litter. And customers have to bring their own containers, or pay extra for disposable ones. Read what the present and future rules are. And what it means for your company.

Why measures against single-use plastics?

Plastic waste is increasingly ending up in nature and seas (plastic soup). This is bad for the environment. It makes fish and other animals ill. Several rules are in place to reduce the plastic soup. Such as the EU Single-Use Plastics (SUP) guidelines These are also in effect in the Netherlands.

Rules for disposable plastic cups and food packaging

These are the rules for the use of disposable plastic cups and food packaging.

  • Customers have to pay for disposable plastic cups and food packaging when they take out or have food or drink delivered. Thisincludes plastic bags.
  • You have to offer a reusable alternative for the single-use cups and containers.
  • There is a complete ban on on-site use of disposable plastic cups and food packaging since 1 January 2024.

Read more about the rules for disposable plastic cups and containers.

Ban on free plastic bags

You are not allowed to give your customer a free plastic carrier bag. Your customer has to pay. Free bags made of reusable materials, such as paper or fabric, are allowed. There are some situations in which you are allowed to give a thin plastic bag, for example to protect unwrapped foodstuffs.

Read more about the ban on plastic carrier bags.

Ban on the sale of single-use products

Since 3 July 2021, there are a number of disposable plastic products you may no longer market. Examples are plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, and Q-tips made of plastic or bioplastic. You must also print a marking on the product or on the packaging for certain products.

Read more about the ban on single-use products and mandatory marking.

Producers pay for cleaning up plastic litter

The extended producer responsibility (EPR) applies to a growing number of plastic products such as cups, containers, and carrier bags. This means that as a producer, you contribute to the collection of the waste and the clearing up of litter. You pay a fixed rate (in Dutch). You also have to encourage your customers to dispose of plastics responsible and to prevent littering. The EPR is being introduced gradually.

Read more about the collection of the waste and the clearing up of litter.

Packaging

Are you a producer, and do you use packaging for shipping your products? There are rules for the disposal of packaging.

Rules for bottles and beverage packaging

The caps on bottles and beverage containers must remain attached during use. This rule will take effect on 3 July 2024.

It does not apply to:

  • bottles and beverage packaging for medical use, and
  • bottles and beverage packaging of more than 3 litres.

From 2025: bottles made from recycled material

  • From 2025, 25% of the material of a PET bottle (polyethylene terephthalate) must consist of recycled material.
  • From 2030, 30% of the material of all bottles must be recycled.

The exact effective date of these rules is not yet known. The European standardisation body is still working out exactly what conditions the products must meet.

Deposit on small plastic bottles and cans

Since 1 July 2021, small plastic bottles for soft drinks and water have been subject to a deposit (statiegeld). Read more about this at statiegeldnederland.nl (in Dutch).

A deposit on cans for water, soft drinks, beer, and other low alcoholic drinks is in place since 1 April 2023. A deposit of at least €0.15 (15 cents) is charged on every can. Read more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Plastics are:

  • All polymers that do not occur naturally.
  • Natural polymers that have been chemically modified.

This definition also includes products made from biobased and biodegradable plastics. And products (such as wet wipes) made from viscose.

The European Commission has published a manual that Member States can use to assess if products are made of plastic.

If a product is not made, designed, or marketed for reuse. For example, it is not sturdy enough to clean for reuse. Or the product cannot be put in the dishwasher.

The products that are prohibited from 3 July 2021 may no longer be offered on the market in the Netherlands from that moment on. You may still sell or use existing stocks if you have a shop or are a wholesaler, as these products have already been put on the market. Orders that you have already placed also fall under existing stock.

There is no end date by which your existing stocks must be finished. But you must be able to demonstrate that it actually concerns existing stock. For example, with an order list or invoice.

Are you an importer or producer? Then the statutory measures apply to your stock since 3 July 2021. You are no longer allowed to sell this stock, since it had not yet been offered on the market at that time.

Yes, you may sell disposable plastic cups. But marking is mandatory. The marking shows that the cup is made of plastic and does not belong in the environment.

Since 1 January 2023, extended producer responsibility for disposable plastic cups applies. This means that you contribute to the collection of the cups and the prevention of litter.

In the coming years, the government will also take extra measures against the use of plastic disposable cups and meal packaging. The government is still working out these measures.

The legislation also applies to products that are partly made of plastic. For example, because they have a plastic coating. Check which measures apply to the product if it partly consists of plastic.

The rules also apply to disposable products made from recycled plastic. Recycling plastic is good for the environment. By recycling you emit less CO2. But recycled plastic does not degrade in nature either. So, the problems it causes in nature and the sea are the same as with ordinary plastic. Check which measures apply to the product when using recycled plastic.

The rules also apply to disposable products made from bioplastics (biobased or biodegradable). There are many types of bioplastics. For example, plastic made from corn, grain stalks, or sugar cane. It may be better for the environment to use non-fossil raw materials. But bioplastics do not break down fast enough in nature. So, bioplastic litter causes the same problems as regular plastic.

As an alternative, you can opt for reusable products. These are intended and made for reuse. Or you choose disposable products without plastic.

Disposable products that are allowed are made from:

  • paper,
  • wood, or
  • other natural materials without additives or chemical changes.

These products must meet all other European product requirements. Pay close attention to the rules for food contact materials. Materials intended to come into contact with food must meet stricter hygiene requirements.

Some products made from biobased materials do not resemble plastic due to the natural raw material, but are in fact plastic. You may only use products that consist entirely of natural polymers. In practice, additives are always used for bioplastics. That is why they fall under the legislation for disposable plastic.

There are also products made of water-repellent paper. Make sure to check whether such a product meets the requirements for food contact materials.

Are you not certain if a product is allowed as an alternative? The Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging KIDV can inform you about materials for packaging.

For drinking cups, you must imprint the marking on each cup. For tobacco products and hygiene products, print the marking on the (primary) packaging. You do not need to mark packages smaller than 10 cm2.

Yes. You can find the standard markings in different languages ​​on the website of the European Commission. You print the marking in the language of the Member State where the product is marketed. This can also be in several Member States and several languages.

Yes. The product is partly made of plastic.

Do you have questions about the SUP legislation? Email your question to Afvalbeheer@RWS.nl. Or contact the Helpdesk Waste Management of Rijkswaterstaat.

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