Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taxing waste

Plastic Bag Floats in the Shallows of the Yangtze River by Eightfish
Plastic Bag Floats in the Shallows of the Yangtze River

Disposing of waste is likely to increase living costs.

The government have given the go ahead to do a pilot scheme in a number of local councils to test whether charging consumers for the amount of waste they produce is feasible.
I know it will be unpopular for various reasons :
  • waste collection is meant to be part of the charge paid by residents to their local council so charging extra for collection of waste will be seen as an extra tax.
  • As long as companies continue to wrap cauliflowers and sell things in large boxes, in plastic tubs etc, there appears to be little progress possible.
  • Some councils offer residents up to 4 bins to recycle in (how practical is that when you are older?)
Against that is the fact that people could do with incentives to recycle more and yet penalties seem to be the only tactic that is being put forward. The reason for this is that the UK will face a penalty of £ 180 million a year. ( If we have 60 million people in the UK that would be £ 3 per head). Compare that to a suggested charge of £ 50 per household?

It comes as MPs warn the UK could face fines of up to £180m a year from the European Commission if it does not cut the amount of waste dumped in landfill.( BBC news article)

The question begging to be answered is as to why, as consumer,we are asked to pay a price for the waste being given to us by the producer and why producers are not paying too? Surely, a consultation about how to package things and finding routes to recycle packaging would bear some innovative results. How about each company figuring out what the cost was of recycling the material and putting the actual cost of packaging to the consumer in their bin on the product? We have food labels, why not waste labels with clearer instructions. Why if we have Value Added Tax, can they not tax producers a waste tax instead of asking the consumer? This surely would mean that companies would bear a responsibility and if they as a result have to put the price up? I guess it is probably a lot more complicated than a logical answer.

As consumers we are meant to have the choice.....but in reality do we?
The responsability for the huge waste produced is a shared one surely; a shared responsibility by the producer and consumer?

An example of producers taking environmentally concerns seriously in respect of packaging are Wigglywigglers ; their catalogue was distributed without plastic cover, and is completely recyclable. It therefore shows that it is possible to emulate this practice in other areas.

We may soon need to ask ourselves more questions :
  • Where does this product come from?
  • What methods of packaging are used?
  • Is it recyclable or will it cost me to dispose of the item and the packaging?
  • Do I really want it?

( Think not only monetary value, but the time it will take you to dispose of it.Example, if my hourly rate is £ 10.00 and it takes me 15 mins to dispose of this by recycling, the cost to me will be £ 2.50. If I cannot be bothered to do that, and stuff it in the waste collection, it may cost me X as a penalty).

Shopping locally, with a basket seems suddenly even more attractive. Think about this before you set off to do your Christmas shopping this year.

1 comment:

The Shopping Sherpa said...

I remember seeing a documentary once and they showed a supermarket in (I think) Germany where they have to provide bins for packaging. The consumer removed any extraneous packaging and placed it in the bins before leading the shop and (I think) that packaging went back to the manufacturer to deal with.

Here's a link to an article about it from 2002: