Single-Use Plastics Directive

5 min.

Against the backdrop of increasing environmental awareness and the need to protect the environment, European and national legislation is stepping up efforts to combat environmental degradation. One of the key pieces of legislation in this area is Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, commonly known as the “Single-Use Plastics Directive”. This regulation aims to reduce the impact of selected plastic products on the ecosystem, as published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ L of 2019, No. 155, p. 1).

What is the main objective of the Single-Use Plastics Directive?

The main mission of the Single-Use Plastics Directive is to reduce waste from single-use plastic products, which pose a significant threat to the environment. To achieve this goal, the Single-Use Plastics Directive introduces a number of restrictions and bans on the distribution of products such as plastic cutlery, plates, straws and polystyrene cups and containers. The introduction of these regulations is intended to significantly reduce the environmental burden of plastic waste.

In addition, the Single-Use Plastics Directive establishes a levy on certain types of packaging, as well as the obligation to label single-use products appropriately to inform consumers of their environmental impact. An important element is also the imposition of financial obligations on producers to maintain waste management systems, as well as to cover the costs associated with waste disposal and treatment.

Does the Single-Use Plastics Directive apply to Poland?

In Poland, in line with international environmental obligations, the Single-Use Plastics Directive has been reflected in the national legal system. The directive was implemented through the adoption of the Act of 14 April 2023, which amended existing laws, including the Act on the Obligations of Enterprises with respect to the Management of Certain Waste and the Product Fee. This law, promulgated on 9 May 2023, introduces significant changes to entrepreneurial, environmental, water and waste regulations, as well as waste management.

“The new regulations have been scheduled to come into force in several stages, starting on 10 May 2023, with further key dates set for 1 July 2024, 22 December 2024 and 30 March 2025. The law responds to the need to reduce the negative impact of plastic on the environment, while giving businesses time to adapt to the new requirements.”

In addition, since 1 January 2024, two regulations issued by the Minister of Climate and Environment have been in force, clarifying the fee rates for single-use plastic products and the fees to cover the costs of managing waste from such products. The first, dated 7 December 2023, applies to single-use products that are packaging, while the second, dated 9 December 2023, specifies the fees for the management of waste from such products.

The implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive in Poland is therefore a gradual process that aims to provide both environmental protection and adaptation time for the business sector.

Which selected obligations have been imposed on businesses under the Single-Use Plastics Directive?

Following the introduction of the Single-Use Plastics Directive, businesses in Poland faced a number of new legal requirements aimed at reducing the negative impact of plastic products on the environment. Here are the key obligations that have been imposed on companies:

  1. Marketing ban: As of 1 January 2024, the sale of selected single-use products such as straws, cutlery, cups and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene is banned. However, it is possible to sell existing stocks of these products, provided they were placed on the market before 24 May 2023.
  2. Additional reporting obligations: Traders are required to update their entry in the Waste Database (BDO) and pay the relevant fees. A report on the number and weight of packaging purchased and issued for 2023 is also required for record-keeping purposes. The first electronic report for the period from 24 May to 31 December 2023 had to have been must be submitted by 15 March 2024.
  3. Product labelling: Single-use plastic products, such as sanitary towels (pads), tampons, wet wipes, tobacco products with filters, must be visibly, legibly and durably labelled with information about the negative environmental impact of these products and inappropriate disposal methods.
  4. Funding of waste management: Businesses are required to cover the cost of managing waste generated from single-use products, including the cost of educational campaigns. This includes food containers, beverage cups, lightweight shopping bags and tobacco products with filters containing plastic.
  5. Consumer education: It is also incumbent on businesses to inform consumers about the negative impacts of inappropriately waste handling and to encourage responsible behaviour, including the separate collection of waste from single-use products.
  6. Provision of alternative packaging: From 1 July 2024, a trader using products such as beverage cups or food containers will be required to provide alternatives to these products in the form of packaging made from materials other than plastics.

The above points represent only a selection of the obligations that have been imposed on businesses in relation to the implemented regulations. With this in mind, traders, particularly in the consumer industry, should conduct an internal audit and verify that their current practices are compliant and that they are ready for further changes, including those coming into force from 1 July 2024.

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Attorney trainee in Poland
Agnieszka Słowikowska
Attorney at law
ECOVIS Legal Poland
+48 22 400 45 85

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This article is part of the Newsletter No. 2 | 2024.