Scrap Dutch waste import tax, says RDF Industry Group

The RDF Industry Group is calling on the Dutch Government to rethink its decision to tax the import of foreign waste from 1 January 2020, as it states the diversion of RDF to landfill in the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Bales of RDF ready for export
Image: Indaver

The Group has published a briefing note which sets out that for each tonne of RDF diverted from combined heat and power generation in the Netherlands and sent to landfill in the UK and ROI, an additional 261 kilogrammes (kg) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) will be emitted. This is more than ten times the emissions generated per tonne when the RDF is treated in the Netherlands.

The Netherland’s proposed import taxes were announced in June as part of the Dutch Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions – under the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Netherlands has agreed to achieve a 49 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 1999. The Dutch Government believes that a tax on the import of foreign waste – proposed at €32 (£28.75) per tonne of RDF – will play a key role in achieving this goal.

The Netherlands is a major destination for foreign residual waste, receiving around 1.4 million tonnes of RDF from the UK and ROI each year. The RDF Industry Group’s briefing note states that this waste would otherwise be sent to landfill, as the UK currently lacks the waste management infrastructure to process its RDF domestically.

The briefing note explains that the export of RDF from the UK and ROI to the Netherlands in 2018 saved almost 370,000 tonnes of CO2e, which is equivalent to taking over 370,000 cars off the road. The introduction of an import tax will therefore be counterproductive in reducing carbon emissions it says, as emissions will be increased in the UK and ROI.

Robert Corjin, Chair of the RDF Industry Group and Marketing Manager at Dutch waste management company Attero B.V., said: “It is not effective for the Dutch Government to be undermining wider attempts to reduce carbon emissions by not taking into account the significant leakage effects that the proposed waste import tax will have.

“There are European-wide targets for carbon reduction and the perverse effects of diverting waste from combined heat and power to landfill is of major concern for those nations which export waste.”

The tax will also impact recycling rates, as it is likely that Dutch energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities will become undersupplied, resulting in lower gate fees. Corjin explained: “We are also concerned about the wider negative impacts of the proposed tax. Reducing the feedstock available to Dutch energy-from-waste facilities will increase competition for residual waste, and any potential reduction of gate fees as a result of this would only serve to undermine the economics of recycling.

“If Dutch facilities have to bear the cost of this tax, this will put jobs on the line and facilities at risk of unnecessary closure.”

What will happen to RDF post-Brexit?

The RDF Industry Group has previously called for the government to take urgent action to ensure that the export of RDF from the UK to Europe will continue unhindered after Brexit. The Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Dutch Waste Management Association (DWMA) have also stressed the importance of frictionless waste trade, calling on UK and EU authorities to ensure that ‘unnecessary’ barriers and tariffs on the trade of waste materials are avoided.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now confirmed that the trade of waste materials will continue following the UK’s departure from the EU – deals have been secured with EU member states to maintain 100 per cent of the UK’s notified waste shipments in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Although the legal aspects of waste exports will remain unchanged in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, it is likely that waste exporters will experience delays at container ports. With 15 per cent of the 3.6 million tonnes of RDF the UK sends to mainland Europe every year travelling through the Port of Dover, changes and disruptions to border controls will cause significant backlogs at the port.

The government has advised waste exporters to take precautionary measures, such as identifying alternative storage facilities or alternative export routes to avoid disrupted ports.

You can read the RDF Industry Group’s briefing note on the Group’s website

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