The introduction of the single-use plastic tax in Italy was originally planned for July 2020. It has now been postponed for the sixth time and is due to come into force on 1 July 2024. The tax aims to tax single-use packaging and plastic products. In this article, we explain what legal changes retailers can expect for their shipments to Italy as a result of the introduction of the tax.

Single-use plastic tax in Europe: what's behind it

The EU Single-Use Plastics Directive aims to create standardised regulations within the EU to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. For example, the use of certain single-use plastic products such as stirrers and drinking straws has been banned. In addition, the so-called plastic levy was introduced in 2021.

It is a further means of reducing the environmental risks posed by plastic pollution and serves, among other things, to protect the environment and promote the circular economy. The focus in the EU is on plastic packaging waste. The plastic levy obliges all EU member states to make a payment (plastic levy), which is calculated based on the amount of non-recycled plastic waste.

Due to the lack of EU-wide guidelines for implementing the levy, there is a patchwork of regulations and legislation. This makes it difficult for international retailers and companies to sell their products in different EU countries. It is therefore all the more important to familiarise yourself with the respective legislation of the countries at an early stage so as not to miss any deadlines or new requirements.

Plastic tax in Italy: implementation and effects

To finance the EU plastic tax, the Italian Budget Act 2020 (Law 160/2019) passed the plastic tax on 27 December 2019. Among other things, this applies to single-use plastic packaging and plastic devices used for the closure, marketing and presentation of single-use items. Exceptions apply to packaging made from compostable plastics and packaging for medical articles, as well as recycled plastic material.

Who has to pay the tax?

All companies that manufacture or distribute the aforementioned products in Italy and are based there are taxed. Traders from other member states who import goods into Italy and sell them to private end customers are also liable to pay tax. Companies without a registered office in Italy must appoint a (jointly and severally liable) tax representative in Italy to fulfil their obligations.

What retailers should bear in mind

With the planned introduction in July, the Italian tax will amount to €0.45 per kilogramme of new plastic contained, with an exemption for amounts under €25. It is intended to incentivise the use of environmentally friendly packaging options. If the plastic tax is not paid properly, taxable traders face heavy fines. These can be between two and five times the amount of the unpaid tax. Penalties may also be imposed for late payments.

Although the further postponement of the introduction in Italy raises questions about implementation and effectiveness, it is to be hoped that the early introduction will represent a further step towards more sustainable practices in the packaging industry in the interests of sustainability. The plastic tax is also being discussed in other countries. Companies that operate in more than one EU member state should therefore regularly check the applicable national regulations. You can find out which regulations currently apply in Spain or Germany in our blog.

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