Higher reimbursement for costs of cleaning up drug waste

The Dutch government is raising the reimbursement paid to private individuals and government authorities for the costs of cleaning up drug waste dumped by criminals. Toxic waste from the production of synthetic drugs is often dumped at roadsides and in nature conservation areas. This causes severe soil and groundwater pollution and leads to landowners incurring huge property damage and costs. The basic rule is that polluters must pay for the damage caused by pollution, but it is often difficult to identify the perpetrators of drug waste dumping. This should not lead to innocent citizens suffering the consequences and having to foot high clean-up bills.

This is stated in a letter submitted to the House of Representatives today by Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security, also on behalf of State Secretary Heijnen of Infrastructure and Water Management. Under the current subsidy scheme, private individuals are entitled to full reimbursement of drug waste clean-up costs, subject to a maximum of €25,000. Municipalities, provinces and water authorities are currently entitled to the reimbursement of 50% of these costs, subject to a maximum of €25,000. The current scheme suffices in most cases, but sometimes the reimbursement falls far short of the costs incurred. The minister and state secretary want to prevent that this leads to dire situations, such as innocent citizens being required to pay huge bills, or environmental damage occurring because insufficient funds are available to pay for the clean-up.

‘Drug waste dumping epitomises the toxic effect of organised crime in our society. Criminals dump their drug waste because they only care about maximising their profits, to the detriment of innocent citizens, the natural environment and our safety . That is why we are not only busting drugs labs, but also tackling the consequences of drug production,’

says Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius.

State Secretary Heijnen:

‘Dumping drug waste is antisocial behaviour at the expense of innocent people and the environment. It is galling that we have to use tax money to clean up waste dumped by criminals, but it's a necessity. Drug waste is dangerous to public health and the environment. Large-scale drug waste dumping can even pose a hazard to the production of drinking water, and that’s the last thing we want.’

Scheme to be broadened

The subsidy scheme for drug waste clean-up costs is implemented at the provincial level. Therefore, the exact date on which the broadened scheme takes effect may differ between the twelve provinces. The provinces will communicate the details of the broadened scheme and the application form in the first quarter of 2023. Under the broadened scheme, which take will effect after the relevant province has communicated it:

•           Private individuals will be entitled to full reimbursement of clean-up costs, subject to a maximum of €200,000.

•           Municipalities, provinces and water authorities will be entitled to the reimbursement of 50% of these costs, subject to a maximum of €50,000. Any costs in excess of this will be fully reimbursed, subject to a maximum of €200,000.

•           For those affected by drug waste dumping in 2021 and 2022 to whom the current scheme applied and who would have been entitled to a higher reimbursement under the new broadened scheme, it will be reviewed if they may submit an additional application with retrospective effect.

New national scheme

Tailored approach for cases of massive drug waste dumping

In three cases of exceptionally massive drug waste dumping in the province of North Brabant which have caused large-scale soil and groundwater pollution, the costs greatly exceed even the higher ceiling under the new scheme. In these cases, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will in partnership with the parties involved finance the costs to enable rapid soil remediation. Where those responsible for the dumping have been identified, the government will recover the costs from them. This tailored approach concerns massive drug waste dumping at three locations in North Brabant: Brabantse Wal/Halsteren, Neerkant/Deurne and Zundert. These cases of massive dumping also prompted the House of Representatives to call for a new broader subsidy scheme. If the central government were not to intervene in these cases together with the province of North Brabant, there would be a risk of huge environmental damage and chemical substances being dispersed by the groundwater. This risk will now be averted thanks to the tailored approach.

New national scheme

At present, a new national subsidy scheme for the reimbursement of the costs of cleaning up dumped drug waste is being drafted. The envisaged effective date of this new national scheme, which will replace the current subsidy scheme, is 1 January 2025. The new national scheme is developed in consultation with the Association of Provincial Authorities (IPO), the Association of Regional Water Authorities (UvW), the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), and two parties with extensive practical experience: the province of North Brabant and BIJ12, the implementing organisation of the joint provinces.

The new national scheme will largely resemble the current subsidy scheme that is now being broadened. As the new national scheme will also take into account massive dumping cases, tailored approaches will no longer be necessary once it takes effect. The new scheme will also provide for the reimbursement of clean-up costs when drug labs are discovered. In addition, the knowledge and expertise around drug labs and waste dumping will be shared more widely to enable more effective action against it.