Ban on free plastic single-use cups and containers

Do you sell take-out meals or coffee to go? Starting July 2023, you can no longer give your customers free single-use plastic cups or containers. And you need to offer a reusable alternative. As of 2024, you are no longer allowed to use single-use plastics for eating in. Read what these rules mean for your business.

The new rules apply to hospitality businesses, company restaurants, events booths and stalls holders, and coffee corner sales outlets. Do you normally offer waiting customers a cup of coffee in a plastic cup? You too will have to find alternatives (in Dutch).

19 million plastic disposables - a day

Just in the Netherlands, we throw away 19 million single-use plastic cups and containers a day, according to Dutch government sources. To combat pollution and to stop the plastic soup from growing even bigger, a law banning free plastic single-use cups and containers is being introduced. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management estimates a decrease in the use of disposable plastics by forty per cent.

Take-out and delivery

As of July 2023, you can no longer give your customers plastic single-use cups or food containers for free. That means coffee to go, but also take-out or delivery meals. Do you use cardboard cups or containers? Check with your supplier if there is no plastic layer on the inside - there often is. And that is not allowed anymore either. 

Eating on the premises

From January 2024, you are not allowed to use plastic single-use cups or containers for serving customers who want to consume your drinks or food on the premises. This includes company restaurants, the office, snackbars, and festivals. You may continue to use plastic single-use cups and containers, but only if you really need to. And in that case you need to collect 75 to 90% of all packaging materials yourself, for high-grade recycling. "That is quite a challenge, especially for small businesses", says Emmy van Daele, campaign coordinator at Mission Reuse (in Dutch), an initiative to promote reusable alternatives to disposable plastics. "Setting up a system for waste separation takes a lot of work, and there are only a few types of packaging available that are fit for high-grade recycling."

Charge your customer for plastics

If you want to continue using plastic single-use containers or cups, you need to charge your customer a separate fee. You set your own prices. The Dutch government has issued a guideline: 25 cents for a cup, 50 cents for a food container, and 5 cents for pre-packaged vegetables, fruit, nuts, and portion-sized packs, for instance for sugar or salt. The packaging fee you charge has to be transparent. That means you cannot calculate them into your product price. You have to list them on the sales receipt separately.

Alternatives

Are you ready to stop using plastic disposables? There is a number of available alternatives:

  • Offer reusable packaging
  • Encourage your customers to bring their own packaging
  • Offer disposables that are free of plastics. Such as cardboard cups with a sugar cane or corn starch coating.

You can replace plastics used for eating at the premises by ceramics, for example. "And use a carton of milk, or sugar lumps, instead of portion-sized packs of sugar, milk, or sweeteners", Van Daele adds. 

"Some options require a change in behaviour, for you and your employees and your customers", says Van Daele. "Explain the new system to the users carefully." And note: whichever option you go for, your customers are always entitled to a reusable alternative, such as a cup or food container they have brought themselves. Read more (in Dutch) about the alternatives to plastic disposables, and find out which option suits your company best.

Plastic bags

Previous plastic waste-reducing measures have proven successful. Think of the ban on plastic carrier bags, that has been in place since 2016. The number of plastic bags found in street litter has reduced by 70% since then. Research (in Dutch) conducted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management shows that entrepreneurs and customers have become more aware of the drawbacks of using plastic. Customers have accepted the fact that they have to pay extra for plastic carrier bags, and they do not blame business owners. 


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