Estonia's EU plastics tax bill comes to €23.6 million for 2021

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Starting in October single-use plastics will be banned at events in Tallinn. Source: Rafael Marchante/Reuters/Scanpix

Estonia's European Union non-recycled plastics tax bill come to €23.6 million this year, ERR reports, though some experts say that Estonia pays considerably more than it should do in proportion to its size and wealth. The tax proved unpopular with the former Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition when it was introduced last year.

At the same time, differences in how plastic use, consumption and disposal are measured in different member states means the system is not yet harmonized in any case.

The tax, which came in last year, met with controversy, with one eurosceptic Estonian MEP saying it was unconstitutional – a complaint which the justice chancellor rejected.

Both then-Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and former finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) stated their opposition to EU-initiated taxes.

Plastic tax in the EU if it were collected based on the relative wealth of a member state would see Estonia's share at €12.6 million, while other larger and/or wealthier member states will have considerably higher plastic tax, even on a per-capita basis.

The total combined plastics tax due this year from all 27 member states is around €6 billion.

At the same time, recycling in Estonia is still not as much of a n ingrained habit as it is elsewhere in the union, ERR reports, though this can also vary depending on how waste volumes are calculated in a particular member state.

Environment ministry spokesperson: Some member states don't differentiate between types of waste as much as we do

Head of the environmental management department of the Ministry of the Environment Sigrid Soomlais told ERR that: "Frequently, the quantity of packaging placed on the market is about the same as the volume of package waste level. Many countries do not use a separate survey, as we have with our sorting survey," adding that harmonization of indicators would be ongoing across the union.

Both the European Commission and several member states are looking to diversify revenue sources – with a digital tax on the table later this year. Even the plastic tax only came into being last summer.

Erik Marksoo, EU adviser at the Ministry of Finance, said every kilogram of non-recycled plastic packaging waste costs the state €0.80, but calculations put in a factor of 3.8 kg, he said, for less prosperous member states, which saves Estonia around €4 million in a year

Before the tax came into being, more plastic waste went unrecycled, than recycled – the figure for 2018 of unrecycled plastic was over 62 percent.

 Sigrid Soomlais said that the current measurement system compares registered packaging placed on the market – for companies whose output exceeds 100 kg plastic to market per year – with waste management reports, as well as waste from landfill sites being sorted and weight separately

Harmonizing statistics should be in place EU-wide in 2023, Erik Marksoo said, while adjustments will be made later on and compensation paid – or taken – if Estonia and all other member states paid too much or too little in plastic tax.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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