4 July 2019 by Will Date

Councils express concern over future of RDF market

Local authorities have expressed concerns over the Dutch government’s plan to place a tax on the import of waste for incineration – which they say will lead to an increased cost for residual waste disposal for UK councils.

The plans came to light this week and form part of the Netherlands’ efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions, in response to the Urgenda court case (see letsrecycle.com story).

Concerns have been raised over the future of the RDF export market

It is thought that the tax could add as much as €30 per tonne to the cost of exporting refuse derived fuel (RDF) to the country after its expected introduction in January 2020.

The Netherlands is the largest off-taker of UK waste in mainland Europe and took in a total of 1.28 million tonnes of material from England in 2018 alone. 25% of the waste burned in energy from waste facilities in the country travels across borders.

NAWDO

The National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) is among the organisations to have issued a response to the policy proposal, and has questioned whether the measure will achieve its outcome of reducing CO2.

In a statement, the organisation said: “NAWDO supports the reduction of greenhouse emissions, circular economy and moving towards a more resource efficient society. We are concerned to learn of tax proposals by the Dutch government and to implement a new tax at very short notice on UK imported waste sent for energy recovery in The Netherlands.

“The proposal will directly lead to higher waste costs for local authorities at a time when austerity and funding for local authorities remains a key issue.”

NAWDO

“It is unclear how much CO2 emissions are hoping to be saved by this tax proposal. The proposal will directly lead to higher waste costs for local authorities at a time when austerity and funding for local authorities remains a key issue.”

NAWDO said that several of its members have made long term investments in waste export infrastructure, which may become “obsolete or unaffordable” after January 2020.

“The proposal will directly lead to higher waste costs for local authorities at a time when austerity remains a key issue for local authorities,” NAWDO said.

The organisation has also questioned whether the policy is likely to lead to savings in greenhouse gas emissions, as it reasons that in the short-to-medium term it is likely to result in an increase in waste going to landfill as RDF exports become more expensive.

Exporters

Similarly, RDF exporters have reacted with concern to the proposals, with one exporter telling letsrecycle.com that he thought that the measure would ‘destroy’ the export market – with an expectation that it will lead to rising gate fees at plants in other key markets including Germany and Scandinavia.

The proposals go before the Dutch Parliament this week (Picture: Shutterstock)

Others have questioned the impact that the measure will have on the economics of EfW plant operations in the Netherlands, where many of the plants are underwritten by public sector contracts.

“Excess capacity at Dutch plants in the short term will need to be filled by local waste. Prices will reduce significantly in the local market as the dozen Dutch EFW plants chase what is now a scarce resource,” another exporter told letsrecycle.com.

“The losses faced by the plants will be made-up by the local tax-payers in most instances because a number of Dutch plants are local authority owned,” he added.

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