The amendment to the Waste Tax Act published today by the Government will not steer the forest industry's wastes into utilisation. Only wastes for whose utilisation a workable solution has not been found are sent to landfills anyway.
The waste tax, which might be levied on de-inking sludge, threatens to disrupt Finland's well functioning paper recycling system.
The Government is proposing to extend waste taxation to the industry's own landfill sites and to hike the level of taxes substantially. These amendments to the Waste Tax Act would impose an additional cost burden of €40 million per year on the forest industry if the EU does not grant the exemption, which are being sought.
It is important to receive an exemption for de-inking sludge, which is created as part of the paper recycling process; such an exemption has been granted with respect to levies imposed under the current Waste Tax Act. It is very important to devote every effort to this application in order to ensure the tax exempt status of de-inking sludge because this safeguards the utilisation of recovered fibre in paper manufacture in Finland. Sweden, for example, has granted a tax exemption for de-inking sludge on environmental grounds. If the tax exemption for de-inking sludge is not granted, the whole Waste Tax Act needs to be reappraised.
A tax exemption for de-inking sludge would not be detrimental to the environment. The exemption would ensure that the prerequisites for a viable paper recycling system remain in place. A waste tax would increase the cost of utilising de-inking sludge and thus endanger the utilisation of recovered paper in Finland. 98% of de-inking sludge is utilised in earthworking or the generation of energy.
The forest industry has halved the amount of landfill waste it produces through voluntary measures implemented over the previous decade. All waste fractions that are technically and economically utilisable are either recycled or used in energy generation. In addition to its direct cost impact, the waste tax would also lead to increased costs in waste recycling.
The best way to decrease the amount of landfill waste would be the removal of unnecessary restrictions to recycling. For example, improving the prerequisites for ash fertilisation would lead to a situation where the nutrients contained in wood ash are returned to the forest more effectively than is now the case.