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More waste treatments should be subject to tax, says industry expert

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Source: Materials Recycling Week

A leading environmental consultant has questioned whether it is right that no other waste treatment other than landfill is subject to a tax.

In last week’s Budget, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced that there will be a continued increase in the standard rate of landfill tax by £8 per tonne on 1 April each year until 2013 (see MRW story).

Eunomia  Research & Consulting director Dr Dominic Hogg told MRW: “I think that is a good thing that we know that landfill tax will go up to £72 per tonne but it is also important that the market has some certainty about these levels for the medium- to long-term. People can then develop strategies and then make investments on that basis. We also welcome the consultation on the tax.

“However, we should ask the question ‘Is it right that no other waste treatment is subject to tax?’”

Hogg explained that a broader-based waste tax would “encourage more investment in waste prevention and recycling”.

He said that other treatments, such as incineration or mechanical biological treatment, should be subject to tax because like landfilling they also have an impact on the environment.

Climate change consultancy AEA Technology waste management consultant Adam Read agreed with Hogg. He said: “The landfill tax is giving the right message out and giving clear messages to the market. It is unfortunate that the landfill tax is going up in economic difficult times but at least the tax is underpinning central Government policy.”

He said he agreed with the concept of differential taxation but that it could be difficult to enforce.
“With differential taxation you have to be careful that you are not disturbing the market rapidly because if, for example, you have an incineration tax based purely on best practice now, what will happen if that technology evolves and improves in the next four years? When does the taxation change?”

Read said it would be difficult to decide which technologies had the most environmentally damaging impact if different taxation levels were applied to them. He used recycling as an example. He said that some materials from the UK are sent to Brazil, China and India to be reprocessed but he said that because it is not locally based it could incur higher taxation levels.

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