Incineration taxes are charged to waste incineration operators to help drive waste away from incinerator facilities towards preferable disposal alternatives, including 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 that fails to take into account the challenges and tradeoffs associated with this approach. 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. When burnt, plastic creates several other forms of pollution, which are poorly regulated in most developing countries around the world. 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 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 costs are passed on to users at higher prices.
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
Instead of being burnt, plastic can be recycled. See https://plasticsmartcities.org/collections/reuse-recycling for Recycling Best Practices.
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