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Source: US Global Legal Monitor

(Jan. 31, 2020) On January 29, 2020, the Swedish Parliament voted to approve a tax on plastic bags. Under the new rules most plastic bags will be taxed at SEK 3 (about US$0.31) apiece, while smaller and thinner plastic bags will be taxed at 30 öre (SEK 0.30, about US$0.03) apiece. Smaller plastic bags are defined as those that have a wall thickness of less than 15 micrometers and a volume of less than 7 liters.

The new rules will enter into force on March 1, 2020, but actual enforcement of taxation is scheduled for April 1, 2020. The tax does not apply to plastic bags that are “meant for continuous use” (varaktigt bruk). (Skatteutskottets betänkande 2019/20:SkU13 at 1.)

The tax is to be levied on producers and importers. Imports of less than 40 bags and bags meant for the individual importer’s personal or family use are exempted. Approved warehouse storers will receive a deferred taxation, similar to other excise taxes. The responsible tax authorities are the Tax Authority for producers and the Swedish Customs Service for importers. (Regeringens proposition [Prop.] 2019/20:47 at 6.)

According to the government, the purpose of the law is to “prevent the spread of microplastics.” (Prop. 2019/20:47 at 16.) The government bill cites tests conducted by the nongovernment, nonprofit organization Håll Sverige Rent which determined that, out of the 10 most frequent categories of waste found at Swedish beaches, seven comprise plastic-based products such as “plastic fragments, plastic bags, candy wrappers and fast food containers, single use utensils, caps, and tarpaulins.” (Prop. 2019/20:47 at 17, translation by author.) In addition, the new excise tax on plastic bags strives to fulfill by 2025 the European Union (EU) goal of per capita use of less than 40 plastic bags annually. (European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on Packaging and Packaging Waste (Consolidated Version) art. 4.)

Currently, Swedish consumers pay a fee for most plastic bags used in retail, whereby Sweden complies with the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which required that such products must not be offered free of charge after December 31, 2018. Following the new rules, the retail industry expects that plastic bags will cost about SEK 6 to 7 (about US$0.62 to $0.73) when purchased by the retail consumer.