Dutch exemption from waste tax for dredging sludge
Brussel – The European Commission has decided that a tax exemption for sludge dredged from public waterways does not constitute state aid. The Commission took account of the fact that the tax exemption does not provide selective advantages to certain undertakings and is fully consistent with the public policy objective in the Netherlands of encouraging the dredging of public watersays.
In the Netherlands, a tax is levied on waste that is offered to landfill in order to reduce the volume of waste. This objective does, however, not apply to dredging sludge. Public policy in the Netherlands is to improve public waterways and therefore maintain, or even increase dredging. In this way, dredging sludge differs from any other waste. The Commission has concluded that the exemption falls within the logic and the nature of the Dutch waste tax system and does not provide selective advantages to certain undertakings. It therefore does not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU Treaty rules outlawing state aids liable to distort competition (Article 87(1)).
The Commission, moreover, notes that most of the exemption benefits public authorities and public or private ports responsible for keeping public waterways open.
The Commissionâ€™s decision takes into account that the supply of organic material is beyond the control of the authorities as much of it enters the country via the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Schelde. Pollution stems from many sources and arises over relatively long periods, therefore it is hardly ever possible to identify and hold responsible individual polluters. Under these circumstances, a tax on the dredging sludge deposited in landfill cannot be considered to have any effect on the creation of waste. In contrast, the tax may rather have as a consequence that polluted sludge remains in place for a longer period.
Some 10% of all sludge can be cleaned in such a way that part of it can be reused e.g. as building material. The Netherlands intends to achieve this objective by imposing a minimum treatment standard upon the operators of landfill sites.