English Summary

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

This website provides a variety of content about waste charges, pay-as-you-throw schemes and landfill and incineration taxes in Spain. Furthermore, it includes case studies relevant to public administrations that may want to adopt similar schemes, as well as a section with technical and scientific reports about waste taxation.

This project is promoted by Fundació ENT and is open to collaborations with people and entities that seek to improve the quality of the environment through environmental taxation. Fundació ENT is made up of professionals with multidisciplinary profiles within the environmental sector and has a strong track record in areas such as ecological economics, political ecology, waste management, energy and fisheries.

Fundació ENT looks forward to continuing developing this website. So, we are open to collaborations to develop waste taxation instruments and to conduct new case studies. 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 vary greatly throughout a territory and even between neighbouring populations. Traditionally, these charges are conceived as flat rates or depend on criteria independent from the amount of waste generated by individual users and entities.

The Observatory of Waste Taxation conducts an annual study on the state of waste charges in Spain. There is also a report analysing the evolution of waste charges since 2015.

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 separate collection can be incentivised if the residual fraction is taxed. There is also the possibility of charging for other fractions with a high reduction potential, such as packaging.

Normally, PAYT charges have a general part (independent of generation) and a variable part, dependent on quantity. 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). In practice, both categories can be applied in multiple ways:

BIN IDENTIFICATION uses chips or tags so that bins can be recognised. The charge 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 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 charge depends on the weight of the collected waste.

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

In Spain, these kinds 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 and Verdú.

In the case of USER IDENTIFICATION, containers are equipped with a user ID system (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 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 implementing 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 key documents of the European and National waste policies – 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 helps to internalise 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 correcting their relative costs with respect to the other options (particularly important for the landfilling option, which otherwise is commonly the cheapest alternative) and therefore helps to align the costs of the different treatment options with the waste hierarchy.

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


[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) involve the application of variable rates, e.g. for the users or producers of a service. Rates depend on the service’s environmental impact, based on its average performance. Those with an environmental behaviour better than the average receive a subsidy and those worse than average face a penalty.

In the case of waste management, fee-rebate schemes 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 enable subsidies for those municipalities that generate less waste per capita and do better separate collection, at the expense of penalising those with 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 cost-effective way to reduce the amount of municipal waste (MW) being sent to landfills. 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 there is scope for trading. Local Authorities not reaching their landfill capacity are allowed to sell or transfer the excess to others, thereby finding 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 specified amount of waste.