Climate minister: Estonia needs a garbage burning tax

Kristen Michal.
Kristen Michal. Source: Raigo Pajula/Office of the President

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) is not ruling out a refuse burning tax being adopted in Estonia to meet climate targets. Existing landfilling fees will have to go up, Michal told Vikerraadio.

Estonia is looking at a garbage handling fine from the EU in 2025 as the country has failed to meet the target of recycling at least 55 percent of waste, managing just one-third presently.

"The EU garbage fine is a possibility, not a certainty for Estonia at this point. We should try to solve the problem and are taking steps to boost recycling from 30.4 percent to 55 percent by 2025. Fees for burning, polluting and landfilling are necessary, I believe. The latter need to be hiked," Michal said.

"Kai Realo [CEO of waste handler Ragn-Sells] pointed to it in an opinion piece. Looking at the waste hierarchy, landfilling is the lowest rung, next comes burning, then recycling and finally avoiding the creation of waste altogether. But if it is cheaper to hand over waste, why bother not creating it in the first place? The landfilling fee has not been changed since 2015. It could be one instrument. Others would include taxes for burning [waste] and plastic," the climate minister proposed.

Prices will not go up for people who are diligent about recycling, Michal added.

"This includes various nuances of people's trust in the system. There are also private sector plans for a plastics recycling factory to serve as the starting point of circular economy," Michal said.

The minister said that all these aspects will come together in a package of measures for which amendments are likely needed.

Estonia has set itself the target of reducing waste in agriculture, transport and housing by 24 percent by 2030. While this responsibility was previously shared by several ministries, it now belongs to the new Ministry of Climate.

Michal said that a broader climate legislation debate is in the pipeline. "It is a major undertaking, a general code or domain laws, as proposed by the justice chancellor. There we will try to phrase the pace of the transition, legal certainty for businesses etc. The environmental taxes side of things will happen in the second half-year. The debate is just starting today," Michal remarked.

"A lot of our emissions are from transport, while 95 percent comes from road transport. The car tax should promote more environmentally friendly means of transport, also in cities as that is where most CO2 emissions are created," the minister said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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