The recent past has been full of legislative changes regarding waste management, driven by the implementation of environmental and climate protection legislative packages, including the introduction of the ‘Fit for 55’ package. Each of the legislative proposals implements different EU objectives and requirements. In the following article, we take a closer look at the most important regulations changing the waste management system in Poland, which directly concern extended producer responsibility (EPR), single-use plastic packaging (SUP) and the deposit system.
The first of the proposed changes is Poland’s implementation of 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 (SUP Directive). The deadline for the implementation of this directive expired on 3 July 2021.
The SUP Directive only applies to selected plastic products and prohibits the marketing of certain single-use plastic products. The SUP Directive also provides for the mandatory labelling of certain single-use plastic products and imposes a levy on single-use packaging.
The SUP Directive is implemented by the Act of 14 April 2023 amending the Act on Obligations of Business Operators with respect to the Management of Certain Waste and the Product Levy and certain other acts. The Act entered into force in May 2023, but some provisions will not take effect until 2024 and 2025.
The revised regulations apply to manufacturers of single-use plastic products. This refers to products that are made wholly or partly of plastics and that are not intended, designed or placed on the market to achieve, within their life cycle, multiple use by returning them for refilling or reuse for the same purpose for which they were originally intended.
The Act identifies a catalogue of single-use plastic products that may not be placed on the market (i.e. cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws and stirring sticks, balloon sticks and food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene and oxidegradable plastic products). Violations carry an administrative fine of up to PLN 500,000. Furthermore, business operators marketing single-use plastic products such as beverage cups, sanitary towels, tampons and applicators, wet wipes and tobacco products must display appropriate information on the product packaging to indicate that the product contains plastic. The implementation of the SUP Directive also introduces two types of levies:
- the SUP levy – a levy charged to the end-user who purchase packaging, beverages or food in such packaging for their own use, without further resale; and
- the EPR levy – a corresponding levy charged to business operators placing single-use plastic products on the market, which is put towards the cost of managing waste arising from these products.
The Act also specifies the amount of recyclate (i.e. recycled material) that must be present in single-use plastic bottles. From 2025, the amount will be 25% and from 2030, 30%. In addition, in 2025 the annual level of separate collection of single-use plastic bottles will be 77%, and in 2029, 90%.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was introduced at the EU level by the legislation of 30 May 2018 amending the European waste directives. The package obliges Poland to implement extended producer responsibility. The deadline for implementation was January 2023, and Poland is one of the last European countries that has not yet implemented the EPR. Work was carried out by the previous government but was not completed.
According to a draft law prepared by the previous government, under the EPR producers will pay a special packaging levy, which will be allocated to financing the collection and processing of packaging waste under municipal waste management systems. Other provisions include the obligation for entities to ensure the recycling of packaging waste, the establishment of producer responsibility organisations and the introduction of an obligation to provide information on the availability of alternative products and the environmental impact as part of the obligation for entities introducing packaging products to conduct educational campaigns. The final shape of the act is not yet known. The draft has been under preparation since 2021. The act was originally intended to enter into force by 1 January 2023, but the new date and the final shape of the legislation is unknown.
On 13 October 2023, the Act of 13 July 2023 amending the Act on Packaging and Packaging Waste Management and certain other acts entered into force.
The act introduces a deposit system for packaging, applying to single-use plastic bottles of up to 3 litres, reusable glass bottles of up to 1.5 litres, and metal cans of up to 1 litre. The Deposit System Act also sets out the conditions that deposit systems must meet. Such a system must, among other things, cover the national territory and have universal and equal access for end-users, as well as for those introducing beverage packaging products. More than one system is possible.
According to the act, it will be possible to return packaging to shops. Shops of over 200 square metres must collect empty packaging on a mandatory basis, while smaller shops will be able to join the scheme voluntarily. A deposit of PLN .50 will be added to single-use plastic bottles of up to 3 litres, reusable glass bottles of up to 1.5 litres, and metal cans of up to 1 litre. The consumer will not be required to produce a receipt to receive the deposit paid earlier. In addition, the rules for the financing of the deposit system have been established. The deposit will go to the consumer when the package is returned, and unclaimed deposits will fund the deposit system. The deposit system is to be introduced in Poland beginning 1 January 2025. Until then, business operators have time to implement the legislation and organise the deposit system.
Business operators placing packaged products on the market will appoint an operator. This representative entity will represent them and thus be responsible for the implementation and operation of the deposit system.
The achievement of levels of separate collection of packaging and packaging waste collected under the deposit system is also linked to the deposit system. The introducer of beverage packaging products is required to achieve a minimum level of separate collection of packaging and packaging waste at the following levels:
- 77% for 2025;
- 81% for 2026;
- 84% for 2027;
- 87% for 2028; and
- 90% for 2029 and after.
Packages in which beverage products were placed on the market before the date for joining the deposit scheme may be used until they are depleted, returned or out of stock. No deposit is charged for such packaging. On the other hand, if those who introduce beverages in packaging do not set up a deposit system or do not achieve the required levels of separate collection of packaging and waste, they will have to pay a product levy.
In addition, the act has established a template for the labelling of deposit packaging, which must state that a deposit is charged and the deposit amount. The information should be clear, visible, legible and permanent, contrasting with the background and placed on the label.
Consequences of the changes
The introduced and proposed changes to Polish waste management legislation will contribute to the achievement of climate goals, including those related to reducing the negative impact of plastics on the environment. Poland has been obliged to implement these changes. At this stage, the SUP and deposit system regulations have been introduced, which is a step towards the implementation of other changes in the future. Undoubtedly, having industry and consumers adapt to the proposed changes will be a difficult and time consuming, which is why proper regulation and further in-depth work is required for the proposed EPR draft. The monitoring of the legislative work and the plans of the current government are important steps toward helping entities gradually adapt to the mandatory changes. The laws already in force, including the deposit system, also contribute to shaping a closed loop economy that places a premium on recycling and waste reduction.
For more information on these initiatives and waste management in Poland, contact your CMS client partner or these CMS experts.