17 December 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Dutch senate backs ‘RDF tax’ but court case looms

The Dutch Senate has today (17 December) backed proposals which will see a tax of €31 per tonne placed on the import of waste for incineration from 1 January 2020.

However, a court case between Attero and the Dutch state will begin tomorrow, with the Dutch waste management firm looking to delay the ban until April 2020 to give the industry time to prepare.

In a sitting at the Dutch senate (Eerste kamer der staten general) this afternoon, members backed the proposals as expected after they were approved by the Dutch House of Representatives last month (see letsrecycle.com story).

The senate sat this afternoon in the Dutch parliament, where it ratified a raft of proposals, including the Tax Plan for 2020, which featured the ‘RDF tax’

Speaking with letsrecycle.com, a spokesperson at Eerste kamer der staten general said: “The senate backed the proposals this afternoon, as expected, with few amendments. The tax on the import of waste will be effective from 01 January 2020.”

The €31 tax could have a major impact on the UK as statistics suggests it exports about 14% of its residual waste overseas in the form of RDF for energy recovery, with about half going to the Netherlands.

At the current exchange rate the tax would stand at £25.36 per tonne.

Already, the looming tax has seen Essex council landfill around 200,000 tonnes of RDF a year which was previously being sent to the Netherlands (see letsrecycle.com story).

However, the exact impact of the tax could vary by how much is ‘absorbed’ by incinerators in the Netherlands or at different sections of the supply chain.

Some have said though that even if part of the tax is passed on to local authorities in Europe it could push the cost of RDF exports above domestic landfill rates after processing costs and gate fees are taken into account.

Court case

The tax will impact RDF exporters but some of the cost could be absorbed

Tomorrow, a court case will begin, which was launched by Attero and AVR (Afvalverwerking), one of the Netherlands’ largest waste-to-energy firms, looking to delay the ban.

In a statement in October, Attero argued that the current ‘waste-to-energy’ capacity was established “at the insistence of the central government”, with the latest installations being built by the Dutch government.

The company explained that through more recycling of Dutch waste there is now free incineration capacity that can be used for neighbouring countries.

However, as the Dutch government has passed the proposals the legal fight has moved onto delaying the implementation of the ban, according to Attero and AVR.

The companies could not comment until the conclusion of the case.

Markets

Speaking with letsrecycle.com, Jarno Stet, secretary of the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) said:  “NAWDO is assessing the impact on its members when this tax comes in since the cost per tonne will have a significant impact on a number of authorities.

“This also includes the cost of a disrupted disposal market with inflated prices when 1.7 million tonnes of waste stays in the UK again.”

Standstill

Simon Little, commercial director of Cory Riverside Energy, said to letsrecycle.com that he predicts problems ahead for the market and that increased landfill would be inevitable.

“I think there are problems ahead now. Even if Energy from Waste plants in the Netherlands absorb part of the cost, even around 50%, this could still make it a less viable option than landfill,” he said.

Mr Little added: “Some would say that is good, and the UK needs to deal with its own waste, but the problem here is that the new destination will be landfill as the energy from waste capacity just isn’t there domestically. It’s very difficult for producers and operators to find a viable outlet except for this. As happened prior to RDF, this material will go to landfill and this fuel will be wasted.

“One thing for sure is that the waste can’t stand still, there will be a lot of waste to deal with in the UK and we need to find a market for it.”

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