English Summary

The Observatory on Waste Taxation was created in 2018 to monitor the use of taxation instruments for waste policy in Spain. Our objective is to act as a reference in this aspect and to promote a greater use of waste taxes and charges as tools to improve waste management.

This website compiles a variety of content about waste charges, pay-as-you-throw schemes and landfill and incineration taxes in Spain. This content will be updated as new studies and instruments are included. Furthermore, it includes case-study reports that may be of interest to public administrations that may want to adopt these schemes, as well as a section including many technical and scientific reports about waste taxation.

This project is promoted by Fundació ENT and has a clear vocation to be open to the collaboration of people and entities that share the objective of seeking to improve the quality of the environment through environmental taxation. Fundació ENT is constituted by professionals with multidisciplinary profiles within the environmental sector and has a long history in topics such as ecological economics, political ecology, waste management, energy and fisheries.

Fundació ENT looks forward to continue expanding the contents on this website. Thus, we are open to collaboration deepening in waste taxation instruments, new case studies, etc. This may be through cooperation with administrations, universities, student internships, etc.

If you want to collaborate you can contact us at info@ent.cat.

 

Waste charges

Waste charges are used to finance waste collection and management services at local level. They are regulated through the fiscal ordinances of each municipality so they present a great variability throughout the territory and even between neighboring populations. Traditionally these charges are conceived as flat rates or depend on criteria which are independent from waste generation.

A study on the state of waste charges in Spain for 2015 is available in this website. There is also a new version, uptaded in 2018, along with a document analyzing the evolution of waste charges during these 3 years.

Pay as you throw

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) schemes represent the translation of the “polluter pays” principle into waste charges. Households and commercial activities are charged according to the actual volume or weight of waste generated by them, thereby creating an economic incentive.

Both waste reduction and selective collection can be incentivized if the generation of residual fraction is especially taxed. There is also the possibility of charging other fractions with a high reduction potential, as packaging. In this case, an incentive would also be introduced to reduce this fraction

Normally, PAYT charges have a general part (independent of generation) and a variable part, dependent on generation. Regarding the calculation of the variable part, PAYT schemes are divided into two categories: Bin identification (associated with door-to-door selective collection systems) and User identification (mainly through identification systems in containers). Each of these two categories comprise, in turn, different models:

BIN IDENTIFICATION uses chips or tags so that bins can be recognized. The price of the tax is calculated according to these 4 models:

Individual bin counting:Individual users or communities have a bin with known volume, which is identified through a chip or a tag. They are charged for each time the waste is collected.

Collection frequency:Users must choose beforehand their bin’s volume and the collection frequency, resulting in different levels of taxation.

Identification and weighing of bins:The amount of the charge depends on the weight of the collected waste.

Pay per bag:Users pay the variable part of the tax by purchasing standardized bags, which are the only ones recognized by the collection service. These bags are distributed by the Council or by collaborating shops and tend to be different depending on each waste fraction. Usually, bags are not linked to each user, but this is potentially an option using an identification tag.

In Spain, this kind of schemes can be found in the following municipalities: Esporles, Argentona, Miravet, Rasquera, Usurbil, Maria de la Salut, Porreres, Binissalem, Mancor de la Vall, Alaró, Búger, Sa Pobla, Santa Maria del Camí, Riudecanyes and Verdú.

REGARDING USER IDENTIFICATION, containers are equipped with a user ID detection (through a card, a smart-phone or a key) that allows the lid to open. There are two models:

Chamber system:The bin has a chamber in which waste is disposed and measured by volume or weight.

Disposal register:A cheaper alternative although less precise is to count the number of waste disposals made by users. The charge may increase each time the container is used (for refuse or even for packaging) or may decrease, as a discount from an original price (for organic and recyclable fractions).

 

Landfill and incineration taxes

Landfill and incineration taxes are crucial for the implementation of two basic principles in waste management: the polluter pays principle and the waste hierarchy. One the one hand, the polluter pays principle –formulated by the OECD in 1972 [1] and included in the main backbone documents of the European and National waste policy– determines that those responsible for pollution must bear their costs. The market is not able to generate prices for landfilling and incineration that integrate social and environmental costs, so the application of a tax contributes to the internalization of these costs. On the other hand, the waste hierarchy [2] indicates the following order of priority among waste management options: “prevention; preparation for reuse; recycling; other types of recovery (for example, energy recovery) and disposal”. Landfilling and incineration of waste are the least preferred options of the waste hierarchy.

A tax that raises the total costs of these treatments contributes to correct their relative costs with respect to the other options (particularly important for the landfilling option, which otherwise is commonly the cheapest alternative) and therefore contributes to promoting the order of priority established by the waste hierarchy.

Taxes on final treatments, particularly on landfilling, are applicable in practically all European countries and their effectiveness is widely demonstrated. [3]

References

[1] OECD. (1972). Recommendation of the Council on Guiding Principles concerning International Economic Aspects of Environmental Policies.

[2] Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (Text with EEA relevance) article 4: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32008L0098&from=EN

[3] Watkins et al. (2012) Use of economic instruments and waste management performances. Final Report Contract ENV.G.4/FRA/2008/0112. European Commission (DG ENV): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/final_report_10042012.pdf

 

Fee-rebate schemes

Fee-rebate schemes (also called bonus-malus or feebates) consist in the application of variable rates, subsidizing or penalizing (for example, the users or producers of) a service according to its environmental behaviour/performance, taking as reference the average behaviour/performance. Those with an environmental behaviour better than the average receive a bonus and those with a behaviour worse than the average face a penalty.

In the case of waste management, it can be applied, for example, when several municipalities are associated in a supra-municipal body for the management of their waste, modulating their payments according to their results. Fee-rebate systems allow to subsidize those municipalities that generate less waste per capita and do better separate collection, at the expense of penalizing those that present worse results. In this way, negative behaviours are discouraged and those who achieve better results are economically compensated.

Its application is also possible at the municipal level, to discriminate between the rates paid by taxpayers in each neighbourhood, depending on the different levels of separate collection achieved.

 

Landfill allowance trading schemes

Landfill Allowance Trading Schemes (LATS) are a tool conceived to reduce the amount of municipal waste (MW) being sent to landfills in a cost-effective way. They follow a similar logic to that of the Emissions Trading Schemes.

Landfill allowances are distributed by the public administration (typically national or regional authorities) to Local Authorities, and these may exchange them. Local Authorities not reaching their landfill capacity are allowed to sell or transfer the excess to others, reaching by this means the most effective way to allocate their allowances. These can be allocated for free or auctioned, giving the Local Authorities the right to dispose of a certain amount of waste.