Taxes charged to waste incineration operators to help drive waste away from incinerator facilities towards preferable disposal alternatives, such as reuse, recycling, and composting.
TARGET USERS: Businesses, Industry, Government
KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Incineration tax can be an effective instrument that diverts plastic waste away from incinerator facilities, but it can also be a politically divisive instrument among waste to energy advocates.
There are a number of people who argue that incineration can address all of our plastic pollution problems, however, this is a very myopic view which fails to understand the challenges and tradeoffs associated with this approach. It is important to recognize that even when burnt, plastic creates several other forms of pollution, which are poorly regulated in most developing countries around the world. Plastic production is also one of the fastest growing uses of fossil fuels, while waste incineration also releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases. By 2050, based on current projections, production and incineration of plastics will account for 10 - 13 per cent of the annual carbon budget (1.5C budget).
Incineration, the process of combusting organic materials and substances to convert them into bottom ash, flue gases, particulates and heat (which can be used to generate electric power) is controversial. Converting waste to energy through incineration falls near the bottom of the waste hierarchy, just one step up from landfilling as the option of last resort.
Incineration tax is an environmental tax paid on top of normal incineration rates by any company, local authority or other organization that wishes to dispose of waste at an approved incineration facility. It is intended to encourage alternative means of waste management, such as recycling, by reflecting the environmental costs of incineration more accurately in its price. Incineration operators are liable for the tax – but the costs are passed on to users as higher prices.
Other financial instruments that include taxes, levies, fines and bans can deter plastics and other materials from being incinerated.
Many countries already have incineration taxes. In January 2020, the Dutch government expanded its tax on incinerated domestic waste (the ‘afvalstoffenbelasting’) to include imported waste, and Sweden introduced a new incineration tax in April 2020, after a previous failed attempt in 2006-2010. In January and February 2020, the UK Parliament debated the introduction of an incineration tax, together with a halt to new investment in energy-from-waste facilities, but action was halted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Austria introduced a landfill tax, landfill ban and eventually an incineration tax in 2006; see case study: https://ieep.eu/uploads/articles/attachments/5bcba177-793e-4ed5-acbb-ffc8e0dc238f/AT%20Landfill%20Tax%20final.pdf?v=63680923242
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