In January 2018 the EU Commission published the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The strategy focuses on plastics production and use, and sets a goal of ensuring all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030. The first action as part of this strategy is a proposal for dealing with the ten single-use plastic products and fishing gear that together account for 70% of the marine litter in Europe. The proposal includes:
- A ban on certain plastic products
- Obligation on Member States to reduce the use of certain plastics (which may include financial measures) and
- Obligations for producers to cover costs of waste management and clean up.
The Strategy also recommends introducing fiscal measures to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour and the Commission considers that this specific proposal within the EU budget would contribute to meeting the objectives of the Plastics Strategy. Discussions for a plastic based tax post the 2020 Multi Financial Framework have been ongoing within the Own Resources working group since the EU Commission proposal was launched.
It may be prudent to await these EU developments before embarking on an examination of a national tax measure. Any proposal to introduce new national tax measures on plastics would also have to consider the impact on existing supply chains, legislation required in relation to the scope of the tax, Revenue powers, offences, reliefs, etc., IT costs, tax efficiency and state aid implications. In this regard, it should be noted that the development and introduction of the sugar tax gave rise to considerable staff resources over a period of two years. To undertake such measures, consideration would also have to be given to the opportunity cost of staff resources/time involved.
My Department will continue to assess the evolving EU and international debate in this area and consider, as appropriate, the merits of the introduction of a tax on plastic from an environmental, revenue and administration perspective.