‘Can you please explain it to me?’
On July 1st 2023 new legislation came into effect, that obliges restaurants to ask consumers for a surcharge for packaging that contains plastics and is used for takeaway. After communicating this new law to the entrepreneurs, the Dutch government also started informing consumers in June.
“The ice cream does not change, but the cup does” is an example of one of the campaign images. The text below the image only mentions reusables, not plastic free alternatives. Other campaign images also indicate that consumers can bring their own packaging. What the customer can expect, how to behave or how much the surcharge is, is not clear.
In real life, I see entrepreneurs and consumers dealing with it in very different ways. At the local cafeteria, I asked the owner a question what his thoughts on the new legislation are. His reply was: ‘You’re in the packaging business, aren’t you? Can you please explain it to me? I really don’t get it..’. His cash register supplier had e-mailed him that a ‘new button’ had been added to the cash register, with which he could add an amount (the surcharge) himself for every order. So he had the freedom to decide on when and how much surcharge was charged. A freedom he wasn’t looking for. He also indicated that he would not change the plastic trays he had been using for years. “So much hassle…just let me do my thing.” he concluded.
Another local entrepreneur charged €4,- extra for 8 trays of plastic. “8 x €0.50 is €4,- , isn’t it?” After explaining that it was an indicative amount that the government adviced for mealtrays, he adjusted it to 5 cents per tray. 8 times 50 cents he could keep himself.
Reusable ice cream scoop
The high temperatures of the past few weeks make people enjoy ice cream even more. When entering our local store, I was immediately confronted with the 5 cent surcharge for a PE coated paper cup that. The sign on the counter said: ‘The new legislation obliges us to surcharge 5 cents per cup’ and I was given a hard plastic spoon with that cup that had ‘reusable’ on it. I really enjoyed my two scoops of strawberry ice cream (my favorite) outside on the terrace, licked the spoon very thoroughly and gave it back to the lady at the cash register. “Ehh, sir, what am I going to do with this spoon?” ”Well, this one is reusable, so reuse it?” “Sorry, but we don’t, you can throw it away”…
Will these new measures really reduce the use of plastic? It’s still too early to conclude that. However, we do see a lot of ambiguity created by unclear legislation in the Netherlands and one-sided communication (in our opinion). In real life, it also works differently than what the law makers put on paper in their offices. Causing major problems for many entrepreneurs and these issues are very difficult to include in the analysis of how effective these measures are.
If you would like to discuss the development of sustainable disposables or other packaging solutions, please contact me or my colleagues at Halma Solutions