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Cost model for the disposal of single-use plastics


German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU)




Wuppertal Institute, INFA GmbH, okl & Partner

The assignment

In June 2019, the EU adopted a single-use plastics directive requiring Member States to introduce the “Extended Producer Responsibility regime” for certain single-use plastic products, in accordance with the “Polluter Pays Principle.” The manufacturers of these single-use plastic products (such as food containers, packets and wrappers, or wet wipes) should cover the costs of their collection, cleaning, waste transport, and treatment, and the raising of awareness.

In order to transpose the EU directive into national law, the Federal Government has submitted a draft bill. The “Single-Use Plastics Fund Act” establishes the legal basis for the collection of a disposable plastic levy by the Federal Environment Agency. For this purpose, levy rates must be defined for individual products.

The Federal Environment Agency has therefore commissioned a consortium with the participation of Prognos, to develop a corresponding cost model.

Our approach

In the first step, the foundations for market activity were established. In particular, Prognos determined the quantities of relevant single-use plastic products made available on the market: Food containers, packets and wrappers, beverage containers, beverage cups, lightweight plastic carrier bags, wet wipes, balloons, and plastic cigarette filters. The resulting waste volumes and associated costs were also determined.

On this basis, a cost model was developed that can be used to determine cost rates for the individual product groups – namely for the quantities provided in future years. On the other hand, the funds from the Single-Use Plastics Fund can be distributed to the various beneficiaries according to a point system.

In a third step, the cost model was tested on the basis of individual product groups and beneficiaries, and this was all calculated as an example.

Core results

In urban areas, the costs for cleaning and collection amounted to around 5.10 euros per inhabitant per year for all single-use plastic products and around 0.12 euros per inhabitant per year in extra-urban areas. In total, costs of around 5.22 euros per inhabitant per year were calculated for all single-use plastic products. To determine the product group-specific rate in [€/kg] of SUP products made available on the market, in a subsequent step, the costs are then compared with the overall quantities made available on the market. In a supplementary study for the GVM Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung mbH, 56,000 manufacturers who make single-use plastic articles (as defined by the EU directive) available on the market for the first time or sell them directly to households or other users, were identified. According to the Federal Government’s bill, these manufacturers will have to register for the Single-Use Plastics Fund.

Based on the cost model developed, the manufacturers’ SUP levy can be determined. The amount of the levy depends on the single-use plastic product and the quantity made available on the market. The levy rates are calculated in euros per kilogram.

The levies that manufacturers pay into the fund each year are paid out annually to all entitled stakeholders (public waste management bodies and other legal entities under public law). Pay-out is via a points system, whereby a score is assigned to the services of the beneficiaries.

An example: For cleaning one kilometre, an eligible party in the urban area will receive ten points, while the emptying of 100 litres of wastepaper bin volume is only accorded one point. The reason for this is that between the two variables there is a difference in cost factor of approximately ten.

Links and downloads

On the website of the Federal Environment Agency, you will find:

The study (in german)

Project team: Marieke Eckhardt, Dr Bärbel Birnstengel, Romy Kölmel

Last update 5.12.2022

Do you have questions?

Your contact at Prognos

Dr Bärbel Birnstengel


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Marieke Eckhardt

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