The global trend is clear: single-use plastic is being reduced further and further, as the benefits and the impact on the environment are out of balance. In Germany, reusable alternatives already have to be offered in restaurants. But how are other countries reacting to the high level of environmental pollution caused by single-use plastic?
The Netherlands has pledged to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic, thereby setting an example for a sustainable future. Here you can find out what this looks like in concrete terms, what the rules are in our neighboring country and what this means for the Dutch food service industry.
Background to the Dutch single-use plastic ban
Plastic cups and disposable cups are symbols of our throwaway culture. Their use not only pollutes the environment, but also poses a threat to wildlife. The single-use plastic ban regulations aim to minimize these dangers. In the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, 19 million cups and containers are thrown away every day after a single use. The Dutch government recognized the need for action and over the years has developed a comprehensive strategy to curb this problem. Based on the Single-Use Plastics Directive ((EU) 2019/904) on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, the Dutch government now wants to actively contribute to the reduction of plastic waste. Among other things, the Dutch government is focusing on a sustainable future by banning single-use cups and containers with a plastic coating.
What are the single-use plastic ban regulations in the Netherlands?
Which regulations apply depends on the supply and the situation in which the disposable containers are issued. We take a look at the single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands using various scenarios in which different regulations apply.
1. in the food service industry
Whether a customer eats or drinks on site must be considered differently than if the customer picks up the food and drinks or has them delivered. Let's assume you are a restaurateur in the Netherlands. The following would then apply to you:
Pick-up and delivery:
If a customer in the Netherlands orders food and/or drink for pick-up or has the order delivered, he or she must either pay for the disposable containers as long as they contain plastic, or alternatively, he or she must use the reusable alternative with a return system or bring his or her own containers to fill. As a restaurateur in the Netherlands, you are obliged to list the surcharge for disposable containers separately on the invoice and must offer the option of a reusable alternative.
Distort on site:
If a customer in the Netherlands orders food and drinks for on-site distortion, you, as a restaurateur in the Netherlands, can serve the food and drinks in disposable containers until the end of 2023 in order to reduce your stock of disposable containers. After that, the use of disposable plastic containers for on-site serving will be prohibited. You must then offer reusable, washable dishes or allow your customers to bring their own containers and have them filled.
2. supermarkets, retail and kiosks
In supermarkets, bakeries, butchers, greengrocers or kiosks where there is no on-site warping, i.e. there is no terrace, tables or bar, customers pay for disposable containers with plastic content in which packaged food and drinks are ready to warp and require no further preparation. This includes, for example, iced coffee, meal salads or sandwiches. Food that has to be heated in the microwave, for example, before being distorted is not included and may be sold in plastic packaging at no extra cost. Here too, the disposable container with plastic content must be listed separately on the invoice. As soon as a retailer in this category offers an option for on-site distortion, no single-use containers with plastic content may be issued there from 2024 and the retailer must offer reusable options or allow customers to bring their own containers.
3 Offices, companies, institutions
For offices, companies and institutions that potentially have a canteen or cafeteria, the ban on single-use containers with plastic content will apply from 2024. From the new year, washable cups, glasses, crockery and cutlery must be provided here. Alternatively, the option of a reusable alternative can be offered or you can bring your own containers.
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Exceptions to the on-site single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands
There are two exceptions where businesses are allowed to use single-use plastic containers. The first exception is healthcare facilities or closed facilities such as hospitals. Due to safety and hygiene regulations, they may continue to use single-use plastic containers as long as they are used for on-site patient care. The visitor restaurant of such a facility is excluded from this exception and is subject to the regulations for the catering industry.
The second exception is companies that set up a collection system for high-quality recycling. High-quality recycling refers to the collection and reprocessing of the collected containers so that they can be used to produce new packaging materials for food, so-called food contact materials. Until now, only PET was eligible for high-quality recycling, but companies must be able to demonstrate that they achieve a collection rate of 75% of single-use containers containing plastic in 2024 and a collection rate of 90% or more by 2027. In order to make use of this exemption, a prior notification must be submitted to the ILT, the Dutch Inspectorate for Human Environment and Transport. In addition, setting up a collection system for high-quality recycling involves very high costs and is therefore only recommended for very large companies.
When does the single-use plastic ban apply in the Netherlands?
In general, there are two important dates: The single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands for on-site distortion will come into force from January 1, 2024. The regulation for the pricing of single-use containers with plastic content for takeaway food and drink will apply from July 1, 2023. The ILT will monitor compliance with the new regulations from these dates and intends to take enforcement measures in the event of non-compliance, for example in the form of a fine.
What prices apply to single-use containers with plastic content?
Dutch companies are free to choose the price for single-use plastic containers. The Dutch government's regulation only provides guidelines that Dutch companies can use as a guide. According to these guidelines, a disposable cup or a disposable cup with plastic content could cost 0.25 €; for a meal that can be packed in several containers, 0.50 € should be paid and for containers with single portions of vegetables, fruit, yoghurt, spread or sauce, 0.05 € would be due.
In addition to listing the costs for disposable packaging separately on the invoice, Dutch companies must pay attention to the correct VAT rates when selling disposable containers. The same VAT rate applies to the packaging as to the product in the packaging. This means, for example, that a disposable plastic cup for a coffee costs 0.25 € plus 9% VAT (rate for food, coffee and soft drinks in the Netherlands). A disposable plastic glass in which wine or beer is sold costs 0.25 € plus 21% VAT (rate for alcoholic beverages in the Netherlands).
Which single-use containers and single-use packaging are affected by the single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands?
All single-use containers made entirely or partially of plastic are affected by the single-use plastic ban. This also includes all paper containers that are coated with plastic or bioplastic or contain added polymers.
Which single-use containers can be given to customers free of charge in the Netherlands?
Reusable cups and containers, even if they are made of plastic, flexible food packaging such as films and bags and disposable containers made of plastic-free materials such as wood or paper without plastic content are exempt from the single-use plastic ban and can therefore be handed over to end consumers free of charge.
By the way: Our #IAMPLASTICFREE to-go cups made of 100% cellulose and without coating are therefore not affected by the single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands and can be given to customers at no extra cost. More about our cups here.
How is the single-use plastic ban implemented in Germany?
The Netherlands is not alone in its fight against single-use plastic. In Germany, as in the entire EU, the single-use plastic ban for single-use plastic products has been in force since July 2021. If you are interested in the topic and want to find out more, we recommend the article on the single-use plastic ban 2021, where you can find helpful tips on how to avoid plastic in everyday life.
Since the beginning of 2023, reusable alternatives have also been mandatory in the catering industry in Germany. So if Germany were to follow suit and impose a ban on single-use plastic like the Netherlands, the infrastructure for reusable alternatives would already be in place, at least in the catering sector. A ban or a price increase on single-use plastic for quick consumption on the go promotes more conscious behavior and handling of food and perhaps indirectly leads to less demand for products that are ready for sale and thus single-use plastic waste can be avoided.
In this respect, we in Germany can learn a lot from our neighboring country, the Netherlands, and observe the development of these new measures and draw lessons from them. In the meantime, if you want to look around for the right reusable alternative for your catering business, we have put together an exciting comparison of reusable systems here.
Our conclusion: the Dutch single-use plastic ban is a good way to a plastic-free future
The single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands is more than just a legal measure. It is a broad-based changeover by a wide range of institutions and a large-scale approach and restructuring of the reusable infrastructure in the Netherlands.
Restaurateurs, retailers and end consumers must realize that from 1 January 2024, single-use containers with plastic content will be banned for on-site consumption in the Netherlands and separate costs will be charged for single-use containers with plastic content intended for on-the-go consumption. In addition, the obligation to offer reusable alternatives represents a major change in the infrastructure of many small businesses, and not just a financial one.
Apart from the costly establishment of a collection system for high-quality recycling, for many companies there is no way around the new regulations to reduce single-use plastic in the Netherlands and sooner or later it will be worth taking a closer look at the issue in order to find the individual, best possible alternative to single-use plastic for the company in question.
At first glance, the regulations on the single-use plastic ban in the Netherlands seem complicated, but we believe that as soon as every company has found its way with the regulations, this change can avoid a lot of single-use plastic and thus plastic waste and point a step towards a plastic-free future for the Netherlands.
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The first truly plastic-free and uncoated cups made from 100% cellulose. Don't you believe it? Convince yourself!