Estonia could stand alone against EU's tax on plastic

Plastic waste.
Plastic waste. Source: ERR

European heads of government are currently in Brussels to discuss the long-term budget of the European Union. One of the components of the budget is a potential tax on plastic which would enter into force in 2021.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said at a government press conference on Thursday that Estonia is against the introduction of any new European Union initiated taxes.

Helme said Estonia does not support increasing its own contribution by paying more taxes. "The plastic tax - which we do not support - will be a big argument. It is a matter of principle," he said.

Although discussions in Brussels are ongoing, diplomats say that Estonia could end up standing alone against the plastic tax. The European Parliament is demanding countries increase their contributions and are even threatening an ultimatum: If no agreement is reached regarding European taxes, the Parliament will not approve the long-term budget.

A tax on plastic seems like the easiest way to satisfy the European Parliament.

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) explained: "It comes from the desire of the majority of political groups. The logic is if there are common expenses then there should be common revenue."

Kaupo Heinma, deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Environment, explained: "The scheme would basically be that a certain fee is set. If we had 20,000 tons of waste in Estonia which is not recycled, then that fee would be multiplied by its weight for the final cost."

According to the European Council's initial draft, 1 kg of unhandled plastic would be taxed at cost €0.8. Based on this draft, Estonia would have to pay close to €16 million in taxes on plastic each year. But as unrecycled plastics are being phased out, so would the tax revenue.

Paet noted: "It is a very noble idea that Europe should have less unrecycled plastic. It is an issue, however, because ideally, tax revenue would immediately drop."

According to the directive on recyclable plastic, EU member states must recycle 50 percent of their plastic packaging by 2025. Estonia's recycling rate was just 27 percent in 2017 but a change in data collection methods increased that to 40 percent.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Helen Wright

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