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New regulations for plastics in Saudi Arabia

To counter environmental and health risks, the country will introduce new regulatory requirements for plastic from December 2017 onwards. This will also affect packaging materials. The second phase comes into force in April 2020.

Plastics exports to Saudi Arabia must be marked with the logo for biodegradable plastic
Plastics exports to Saudi Arabia must be marked with the logo for biodegradable plastic

Plastic bags, plastic cases or even plastic plates – the new regulation affects a wide range of products. According to the regulations of the responsible Saudi organization (SASO), plastic products must be made of an approved oxo-biodegradable material. “There is no difference here whether the plastic is produced in Saudi Arabia or imported into the country,” explains Larbi El-Attari of the Swiss Business Hub Middle East in Saudi Arabia. Accordingly, non-compliant products may no longer be brought in.

Imports checked at customs

Products and packaging made with polyethylene or polypropylene must comply with the new rules and contain an oxo-biodegradable masterbatch from a supplier approved by the Saudi Arabian government. In order to check imported products accurately, the customs authority in Saudi Arabia work with a laboratory.

Which products are affected?

Contrary to the information available to date, packaging is also affected. This is indicated in more specific regulations issued by the Saudi customs authorities that S-GE has recently received. Here it is stated that, as of December 12, 2017, the plastic products (which are listed on the HS code list) and the packaging materials for the consignments must gradually bear the "biodegradable" logo. This is to ensure that even disposable plastic products made of polyethylene or polypropylene with a film thickness of 250 microns or less, which are commonly used for packaging (such as carrier bags, wrappings and similar applications), are oxo-biodegradable. Without the corresponding logo, the exports cannot be imported into Saudi Arabia. In order to use the logo, the importers and manufacturers need a license from the responsible organization SASO. At the same time, the companies must attach a letter of commitment from the importer, stating that the regulations for biodegradable plastic products will also be followed for future shipments.

The implementation of the second phase is postponed indefinitely

The Board of Directors of the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) has decided to limit the application of the technical regulations for biodegradable plastics to all products listed only in the first stage of the Regulation. This includes plastics that are once used, such as woven barley bags. The implementation of the second and third phases of the regulation has therefore been suspended. 

The board of the SASO also agreed to the formation of a working group with representatives of the Ministry of Environment, Water, Agriculture and the SASO to evaluate and further develop the experiment scientifically and ecologically. It is planned to improve recycling activities in Saudi Arabia in accordance with modern technologies, mechanisms and best international practices.

The authority pointed out that the first stage of the regulation entered into force two years ago in cooperation with the competent regulatory authorities and has achieved excellent success rates. 441 factories (303 domestic and 41 foreign) have been licensed by the SASO in more than 18 countries around the world to use the SASO label Oxo-Biodegradable.

The application of the first phase of the regulation, which began on April 14, 2017, includes disposable plastic products such as shopping bags, garbage bags, garment bags in addition to tablecloths, as well as woven barley bags and disposable tableware such as plates, spoons and dinner cups, and plastic bags for seedlings.

Any questions?

We recommend affected companies to contact our experts and discuss the individual case. Our ExportHelp will help you with questions about the plastics law in Saudi Arabia!

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