Urged for years by the European Commission and international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to increase its green taxes, the Spanish Cabinet approved a draft law that introduces a new tax on plastic waste, among other environmental measures.

The indirect levy will tax the manufacture, import or acquisition of non-reusable plastic packaging from other European Union countries for use in the Spanish market, according to the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition.
It would require payment of €0.45 for every kilogram of plastic packaging, and is expected to bring in annual revenue of close to €724 million, based on 2017 figures, as cited by ‘El Pais’ newspaper.

One other motivator was the fact that, based on 2017 figures, revenue from green taxes represented 1,83% of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP), compared with the EU average of 2,40%. ‘Spain has the fifth-lowest ratio of environmental revenue-to-GDP of the entire EU’, said the ministry in a release.

The Spanish government first started a public consultation on green taxes in late February 2020, when it discussed the possibility of introducing a tax on single-use plastic packaging. In the end, this levy has been included in a broader draft law on waste and soil contamination.

Following its Cabinet approval, the draft is now on its way through Parliament. The Ministry for Ecological Transition is hoping that it will go into effect during the first half of 2021.

The draft law establishes that by 2023, plastic and single-use food containers will no longer be free, and their price must be reflected on the sales ticket. These products must be gradually phased out and replaced with reusable ones.

It also states that 77% of plastic bottles that are placed on the market will have to be collected separately by 2025, and this figure will have to reach 90% by 2029. Provisions are made for the introduction of deposit and return systems, mirroring reverse vending machines already in operation in other European countries, where customers get a few cents back for every returned bottle. The ministry has yet to decide whether to introduce this system, a final decision being expected in the first half of 2021.