A rally of waste vehicles was at the centre of protests in Parliament Square last week over changes to the rules on landfill tax.
Around 20 recycling and waste firms sent up to two or three trucks in a concerted protest against a HMRC decision to increase landfill tax on certain materials.
On 18 May, HMRC suddenly announced that fines from trommels and screens that had previously been charged at the inert rate of £2.50 per tonne would be subject to the full £64 per tonne landfill tax. While inert material used to cap landfill cells would also be taxed at £64 per tonne.
An industry insider told SCM: “This was mainly SMEs that are involved in the recycling of commercial and industrial, or commercial and demolition waste, as it affects them more than the majors who are mainly looking after municipal waste.
“Those that have materials recycling facilities or transfer stations for C&I or C&D waste are the ones that are most hurting.”
The source said that some companies had been breaking the rules by mixing waste with soil and calling it inert.
As a result, HMRC had decided to change the tax rate, but this was now impacting on legitimate companies that had genuine fines from trommels and screens that were inert, and were now subject to the uneconomic £64 landfill tax rate.
The insider added: “HMRC should have introduced a testing protocol for these materials and kept the landfill tax at £2.50 per tonne. This cost will be pushed up the chain into the construction industry as it is mainly construction waste that is impacted by this. HMRC should have consulted and had a transition period.”
Recycling and waste industry expert Paul Levett added: “The issue is quite subtle. Some in the industry had sought clarification from HMRC regarding non-inert fines but HMRC has responded by applying higher rate tax to inert fines for the first time.
“Inert waste doesn’t cause greenhouse gases and doesn’t form part of the EU landfill diversion targets. I think it is an unintended consequence as a result of HMRC’s lack of consultation before making the change.”