Recycling fee for plastic bags

From January 2018, entrepreneurs operating a retail or wholesale unit offering lightweight plastic shopping bags for the packaging of products sold in that unit are required to charge a recycling fee to the customer for the delivery of the bag. Lightweight plastic shopping bags mean plastic shopping bags with or without a handle of less than 50 micrometre thickness.

Exempted from the recycling fee are very lightweight plastic shopping bags with a material thickness of less than 15 micrometres, which are required for hygienic reasons or offered as primary bulk food packaging, when this helps to prevent food waste.

The recycling fee will be either the total cost of the bag for the consumer or will be added to the price of the bag determined by the trader (then the final charge for the consumer will consist of the price of the bag plus a recycling fee). The maximum rate of the recycling fee is set in the Act at PLN 1 per lightweight plastic bag, while the rate of the recycling fee that the entrepreneur will be obliged to charge from 1 January 2018 to the buyer of such a bag is 20 groszy per lightweight plastic bag.

The recycling fee charged by the operator constitutes a State income and the entrepreneur is obliged to pay it by 15 March of the year following the calendar year in which it is collected. This means that the recycling fee charged to consumers from 1 January 2018 onwards will have to be paid by the entrepreneur by 15 March 2019. The current rules do not specify a specific unit of the State Budget for which the entrepreneur is to pay the recycling fee collected from the customer.

Settlement of fees in taxes

The collected recycling fee constitutes revenue and the fee is tax deductible. The fee will be considered as a tax deductible cost when it is paid by the entrepreneur. The fee is included in the net cost.

VAT on sales of plastic bags

The recycling fee, which is an element of the charge for delivery of a light bag is included in the tax base for this delivery subject to VAT at a rate of 23%.

Sales of plastic bags for shopping made to natural persons not engaged in business activities and lump-sum farmers are recorded using cash registers on a general basis - the fiscal receipt includes the amount of the payment for the sale of the bag (as in the case of an invoice) and there is no need to separate the amount of the recycling fee itself.

Since the receipt and invoice, which confirm the sale of bags, contain information on the number of bags sold, the amount of the recycling fee will be easily determined - by multiplying the number of bags and the rate of this fee per one bag (0.20 PLN).

See the Ministry of Finance's explanatory notes on VAT on the sale of plastic bags.

Questions and answers

See answers to the most frequently asked questions about the recycling fee.

  • Can I pay the recycling fee myself when I run a commercial unit and give the customer a bag for free?

No. The operator of the sales unit is obliged to charge a recycling fee from the customer purchasing the bag. If an entrepreneur running a commercial unit offers lightweight plastic shopping bags without collection of a recycling fee from customers, he is subject to an administrative penalty payment of between PLN 500 and PLN 20,000.

  • Can a plastic shopping bag with a thickness of less than 15 micrometers be offered to the customer free of charge in any case?

No. A very lightweight plastic shopping bag (with a thickness of less than 15 micrometers) can only be offered free of charge to the customer if it is intended for bulk food packaging as its primary packaging, which is connected with hygienic considerations.

  • Can a food that already has its own packaging be packed in a very lightweight plastic shopping bag (with a thickness of less than 15 micrometres) and given to the customer without a recycling fee?

No, because it would not constitute the primary packaging of this food.

  •  Is a plastic shopping bag with a material thickness of 50 micrometers liable to a recycling fee?

No. Plastic shopping bags with a material thickness of less than 50 micrometers (up to 49 micrometers) are subject to the recycling fee.

  •  Can a very lightweight plastic shopping bag that is not subject to a recycling fee have a thickness of 15 micrometers?

No. A very lightweight shopping bag made of plastic is a bag with a material thickness of less than 15 micrometers,  so up to and including 14 micrometers.

  •  When running a tool shop, is it mandatory to charge the customer a recycling fee when packing various small items (e. g. screws) in bags of less than 15 micrometres thick?

Yes. Bags of less than 15 micrometers are only exempt from charge when packing food.

  • When packing products in plastic bags in a shop, i. e. without ears, is there an obligation to charge a recycling fee. The bags are less than 50 micrometer thick?

Yes. Such bags shall be subject to a recycling fee. The definition of a lightweight plastic shopping bag is that these are shopping bags, with or without handles, made of plastic, which are offered in retail or wholesale outlets.

  • When selling lightweight plastic shopping bags in packages containing e. g. 1000 pieces, is it mandatory to charge a recycling fee for each bag? These bags will not be used for the packaging of products bought in my shop.

No. These bags will be subject to a recycling fee as soon as the purchaser offers them to customers in the shop for packaging the goods purchased there.

  • Are animal food products also considered as food that can be packaged in plastic bags of less than 15 micrometers for free?

No. The bags in which animal food and delicacies are packed do not meet the definition of a very lightweight plastic shopping bag and are therefore subject to a recycling fee.

  • When I offer a bag to residents as part of the collection of used household clothes, do I have to charge them a recycling fee?

No. The recycling fee is charged only if it is offered to customers to pack products purchased from a retail or wholesale trade unit.

  • Are paper bags subject to a recycling fee?

No. Only plastic shopping bags are subject to the recycling fee. Paper bags or fully biodegradable bags without plastic additives (e. g. starch bags) are not subject to a recycling fee. However, it should be remembered that such bags may not contain plastics.

  •  Is there an obligation to keep additional records of sales of collected bags and fees and to prepare reports to the competent authorities?

No.

  •  Does the customer's fee for lightweight plastic shopping bags have to be equal to the recycling fee?

No. A retailer or wholesale operator may set any price for a light plastic shopping bag provided that a recycling fee of 20 groszy is included in the price. Example: the fee for a lightweight plastic shopping bag is 50 groszy, including 20 groszy as a recycling fee (state budget revenue).

  • What should you do with the recycling fee charged?

The recycling fee constitutes revenue for the State budget and will have to be paid by the operator of the retail or wholesale trade unit that collects it by 15 March of the year following that in which it was collected. This means that, in the case of collecting a recycling fee from customers in 2018, the operator will be required to transfer the entire amount of money collected from the fee between 1 January and 31 December 2018 by 15 March 2019. The account to which the fee will be paid has not yet been indicated - it will be defined in the current year. The VAT on the collected fee should be paid in accordance with the applicable regulations in this respect.

  •  What authority can carry out inspections of the recycling fee?

Compliance with the rules on the obligation to collect a recycling fee from customers is monitored by a trade inspection. The provisions of section III of the Act of 29 August 1997 - Tax Ordinance - shall apply accordingly to cases concerning the recycling fee.

  • What is the definition of a plastic shopping bag?

Plastic shopping bags are understood as shopping bags, with or without handles, made of plastic, which are offered in retail or wholesale outlets, which include

        1. lightweight plastic shopping bags with a material thickness of less than 50 micrometers,

        2. very lightweight plastic shopping bags with a material thickness of less than 15 micrometres, which are required for hygienic reasons or offered as primary bulk food packaging when this helps to prevent food waste.

  •  What is the definition of plastic?

Plastics mean polymer within the meaning of Article 3 (3)(e). Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006, to which additives or other substances may have been added and which can function as the main structural component of shopping bags.

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