A plastic bag thrown away lightly into the natural environment could soon be very expensive for taxpayers, because Estonia's contribution to the European Union's shared budget could, as early as next year, start depending on the amount of plastic taken into circulation. According to the first calculations, this means an additional payment worth of €20 million for Estonia.
In the coming days, the proposal to make the country's contribution to the EU budget dependent on garbage is going to be discussed in Brussels. For every kilo of plastic waste arrived in a kiln or a waste ground, the country needs to pay 80 cents to the EU's wallet. Since there are dozens of tons of plastic waste in Estonia, it could mean a couple of dozens-worth of additional payments.
"One of the components of the deposit from the countries is the amount of the recycled and non-recycled plastic, at least the proposal is on the table. The Government of Estonia doesn't approve of it, but Estonia is one of the few or one of the last ones who is categorically against it," Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) commented.
In the corridors of Brussels, Estonia is an example of a country that uses a lot of plastic packaging but is capable of recycling only a small amount of it.
"Our main issue is that Estonia is almost the only EU country that is calculating the amount of plastic, for all others, it's some kind of a theoretical calculation," Helme explained.
According to Sigrid Soomlaid, Head of the Environmental Management Department at the Ministry of the Environment, there was over 65,000 tons of plastic waste in 2017, of which only 27 percent was recycled and by this indicator, Estonia is one of the lowest-placed in Europe.
"The members of the union use different methods to calculate the amount of plastic waste and today, it's the reason we are skeptical about the establishment of the own funds. The data is not easily comparable with the union members," Soomlaid admitted.
According to Vice-Chancellor of the finance ministry Dmitri Jegorov, there have been discussions about a €13 to €38 million additional payment. The possible figure depends on the method of how plastic waste is collected and on how much Estonia can improve its waste management.
"Whether a union member has to establish a tax, whether it establishes an economy tax, or if it takes some other form of income from the market or searches for money from the general budget, I can't imagine," Jegorov explained.
"Of course, the goal is to escape this payment obligation as much as possible, meaning that then we have to fix our waste management and decrease the plastic volume that is not recycled."
The proposal to be discussed at the European Council concerns the EU budget period for 2021-2027.
Editor: Roberta Vaino