The Flemish waste tax system is based on the pay-as-you-throw principle. It is made up out of two taxes: tax on landfilling waste and a tax on combusting waste.
The waste tax system counters the waste production and is based on the pay-as-you-throw principle. Taxes are paid by the waste producer to the waste collector (municipality or intercommunal organisation). The remarkable feature of the policy is the differentiated tariff for every waste stream, making it possible to steer consumers in their waste management (i.e. encouraging them to produce less waste but also encourage to recycle more so less waste needs to be deposited). The policy is made up out of two taxes: a landfill tax and a combusting tax. Both increase year over year.
Currently, the tax for incineration of municipal solid waste (MSW) is an average of 101 euro/tonne, but in reality is can be as low as €55/tonne and as high as €130/tonne. This depends on the composition of the waste. For the incineration of industrial waste , Flanders uses five categories: low-caloric waste, high-caloric waste, solid no-risk medical waste, sludge and recycling residue’s. Each category has its own tariff based on the caloric value.
Taxes on landfilling are paid by the waste collectors to OVAM. The tariff is different per landfill category and is the sum of a standard environment fee and a variable tax per tonne. The three categories are:
- hazardous waste: tariff based on composition via sampling (about €125/tonne)
- non-hazardous, inorganic waste: difference between MSW and non-combustible waste (about €126-129/tonne)
- inert materials: also including asbestoscement (€76/tonne)
For waste material that is released from mining activities there is an exemption of landfill tax.
A total of seven people work on the publications and statistics of the tarriffs as wel as the management of the landfill taxes. The taxes only contribute partly, although significantly, to the total cost of the waste management.
Evidence of success
See chart. The amount of municipal solid waste has declined in Flanders, with +-10% per inhabitant since 2013. The decline is most distinct for residual waste: 56% between 1995 and 2015. This is a result of the campaigns to raise awareness on avoiding waste and education of people to sort and recycle . But of course pay-as-you-throw principle and the increase in price to discard the waste is an additional stimulus for people to sort and recycle and to avoid waste being landfilled or combusted.
Illegal dumping. There are two motives: until recently, some municipal sorting streets didn’t have balances for weighing the waste in Flanders. Employees estimated the weight, thus leading to randomness. This is solved. Current dumping practices are done by locals who think the tariffs are too high.
Potential for learning or transfer
The pay-as-you-throw, also called diftar (differentiated tariff) principle is a very efficient system to work with. The experience is that citizens will sort there waste better, leading to less residual waste and lower costs related to that residual waste. It can be applied in all regions where no such system exists yet and could provide a source of income for the organisations that are in charge of waste collection and treatment to allow them to choose for the best waste treatment procedure. However, policy makers should take into consideration that these benefits also have a negative site, i.e. the rate of illegal dumping by citizens could increase to some extent, primarily in impoverished areas. In case of Flanders, the benefits strongly overpower the negative side-effects.
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