Dutch waste import tax will lead to increase in carbon emissions – RDF Industry Group

The RDF Industry Group has called on the Dutch government to scrap its proposed waste import tax because it says this will lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions, as refuse derived fuel (RDF) from the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) will instead be sent to landfill.

Following the announcement of plans to tax the import of foreign waste from 1 January 2020, the RDF Industry Group is calling on the Dutch government to reconsider these proposals at its upcoming Parliament’s Commission meeting on Climate and Energy on 4 September.

A briefing note published by the Group 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 kg of CO2e per tonne will be emitted, which is more than ten times the emissions generated per tonne when treated in the Netherlands.

The UK and ROI currently send about 1.4 million tonnes of RDF for treatment in the Netherlands each year – waste that would otherwise be landfilled as there is not enough waste treatment capacity in either the UK or ROI to treat this waste domestically, the group says.

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

The RDF Industry Group, whose members are drawn from across the RDF supply chain, including major waste management contractors and operators from different European countries (including ROI, the UK and the Netherlands), argues against the import tax in its new publication: Impacts of the Proposed Dutch Waste Import Tax. 

It suggests the export of RDF from the UK and ROI to the Netherlands in 2018 saved almost 370,000 tonnes of CO2e, the equivalent of taking over 370,000 cars off the road.

The proposed tax is a result of wider policy changes designed to reduce Dutch carbon emissions by 25% by the end of 2020. The Dutch government’s own aims for the proposals are that they should cause limited leakage of emissions, but the RDF Group says it has shown “no evidence” for how the tax will have a positive environmental outcome.

The group says that in an attempt by the Dutch government to reduce its own emissions, it is increasing emissions elsewhere in Europe. It also says the tax will also result in waste being diverted down the waste hierarchy – from recovery to disposal. The Netherlands’ own established treatment capacity may find itself “short on waste to treat”; approximately 25% of the waste incinerated in the Netherlands comes from abroad, the group says.

Robert Corijn, Chair of the RDF Industry Group and Marketing Manager at 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.

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, then this will put jobs on the line and facilities at risk of unnecessary closure.”

The briefing note also suggests that the majority of Dutch energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities provide heat for city heating networks that deliver heat to homes and industry. The RDF Group says the import tax will “jeopardise” some heat production and supply – and this lost energy source will have to be replaced with alternative sources, likely to increase emissions in the Netherlands from energy generation.

The new publication: Impacts of the Dutch Waste Import Tax is available to download for free here.

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