Packaging Tax for manufactures to pay for recycling schemes

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Environment Agency (DEFRA) have set out plans to increase household recycling, which their latest report shows has flatlined in England. In typical government fashion they’ve decided that, rather than simply fix the problem, charging manufacturers a packaging tax for the cost of disposing of or recycling packaging is the way to go.

The proposal is to ‘invoke the ‘polluter pays’ principle and extend producer responsibility for packaging, ensuring that producers pay the full costs of disposal for packaging they place on the market’. This all sound great, but it’s basically a packaging tax that manufacturers will pay. If you are a manufacturer then that’s you, if you are a reseller then your prices will go up. If you are a consumer then you’ll end up paying more. The government will pocket the money and although they say that they’ll distribute it to local councils to cover the cost of their recycling programs realistically that’s a load of tosh.

The problem isn’t taxing manufacturers for using packaging. The problem is the entire mindset of the nation and more importantly the inability to realistically recycle. Slapping a tax on non-recyclable packaging will be an incentive to use recyclable packaging. Most of the time it’ll still end up in land fill anyway as councils won’t collect it at the roadside, consumers won’t know how to recycle it and signs on packaging are inadequate.

Walkers Crisps recently hit the news with angry consumers posting crisp packets back to their free post address. The Royal Mail complained, so Walker’s solution was to set up a scheme for crisp packet recycling with Terracycle. Terracycle is little more than a PR stunt for companies to look good, we’ve written about them before. Yes a tiny proportion of packaging will be sent to Terracycle and be recycled and that’s good, but the nearest drop off point from the town I live in is a 20 minute car journey away. Driving a 40 mile round trip is hardly environmentally friendly just to get a crisp packet recycled and so, as most consumers do, I drop the packets in the waste that goes to groundfill.

There are two main problems that need solving. The first is that recyclable packaging can only be recycled if it’s patently obvious how it can be recycled. Cardboard is pretty obvious, but it’s almost impossible to discover how to recycle those void fill air pockets your probably receive. The answer is apparently that you can burn them! Packaging that’s going to end up with a consumer needs more that a badge saying ‘recyclable’. It needs clear instructions on how a consumer can recycle it and it needs to be a much more convenient solution than a 40 minute round trip in a car.

Yesterday I purchased a cabbage at a Sainsbury’s local. The bag it came in (why do cabbages need to be pre-bagged?) carried the message that I could recycle the bag at larger Sainsbury’s stores that have carrier bag recycling points. Even this is bizarre – why can’t I recycle it at the local store and even better why can’t I recycle it when the council collect my other recycling waste?

The second issue is one that the Government say they’ll address in the DEFRA report. More more consistent recycling schemes across the country and, in a move that will please many, a proposal that food waste would be collected weekly to avoid maggot infested bins and rats wandering the streets.

If the government really want to get serious on recycling there is a very simple solution. A directive telling all councils across the country exactly what type of waste they will collect from consumers houses and a recycling badge on every piece of packaging that councils will collect. Anything else that’s recyclable but not through council collections gets a different badge to differentiate it. How hard can it be?

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Have to agree with a lot of the sentiment there. Government knows that trickle-down economics have proven to be a lie, but trickle-down taxation is working wonders for them, and we're apparently all still too stupid to realise what they're doing. if they just put income tax up we'd all riot (potentially, maybe, if we can be bothered and it's not raining that day), so they just tax us by the back door, it worked so damn well for fags & booze & petrol & holidays, they're now using it on gas & electricity, mobile phones, broadband, hell lets just put it onto everything you can buy. because it doesnt show up as a literal tax to the end consumer, we all just glibly accept it. we have absolutely no idea what anything actually costs in this country because there's hidden taxes on everything. i could maybe just about accept that, maybe, except if the manufacturer needs to pay a 10% tax, they'll end up adding 15% to the cost just in case. if the wholesaler needs to add 15% to his cost, he'll put 25% on just in case. if the retailer needs to pay 25% more, he'll put 40% on, just in case. by the time it gets passed to the end consumer we've been shafted so many times we'd actually be better off with a 50% VAT rate and no hidden taxes.

james • 18th December 2018 •

Doing so well until the end ;) Change VAT to income tax and you'd be about right

Gav • 18th December 2018 •

for a higher rate tax payer thats not that a big an increase, i genuinely meant VAT, there's that much hidden tax we're paying.

james • 18th December 2018 •

I know you meant VAT, though I'd disagree. VAT is one of the hidden taxes you mention, that most people pay without thinking about it. It is on some items, but not others. Sometimes it's 20%, sometimes it's reduced. No one is doing the maths when they do their shopping, just paying the price. As for the higher rate income tax payers, they would definitely prefer a system of VAT only, no income tax. I know I would if I was. But back to recycling. A tax isn't necessary. Just make a law...unless that is not the real purpose?

Gav • 19th December 2018 •

VAT isn't a hidden tax, it's called tax, you get an invoice that shows the tax you paid, that's a very visible tax. the hidden taxes i'm talking about comes as a result of government schemes like this plastic charge. you're the one that pays it, the government sets and receives it, but it's never called tax. the government charges manufacturers/suppliers for various things, it's basically a tax but not called a tax. think along the lines of your electricity company being forced to pay millions for pointless "energy efficiency schemes" or green energy subsidies, or the like. the energy company doesn't just take the hit, they pass the charge onto you (plus extra, as illustrated in my previous post), this doesn't show on your bill as a tax, it's money that you pay to the government via a third party, but which to you appears to be part of your normal bill, which keeps going up and up. when the train operators want to gain a contract for, say, the east coast main line, the government doesn't set a flat fee, or choose the best person for the job, they hold an auction. the train co's are bidding with your money, if they put in a stupidly high bid, that means the train tickets need to be stupidly high to pay for it, the highest bidder wins, the most expensive train tickets are basically guaranteed, all the extra money goes direct to government, and comes straight out of your pocket, but it's not showing up as tax to you. if you got rid of all of that, all the hidden money being funneled to government at different levels, and replaced it with a flat 50% vat, i'm saying your train ticket would be cheaper than it is now, and you would know how much tax you actually paid, but we probably wouldn't be as complicity accepting of it if we ever did see how much tax we really pay.

james • 19th December 2018 •

It's like Ts & Cs. Even if it is there, it's "hidden" in the small print and the average person is not reading it. You and I might, but they really aren't. Think about your ebay buyers who ask you a question about an item even though the details are in the listing. That's Joe Public for you. And that is how they read receipts too. Check the total maybe, but that is it. The only time VAT would ever get a thought, is if they get a big quote for home repairs. The day to day purchases would not get a second thought. The same amount of revenue can be raised by any tax form. Income tax is simply fairer. VAT, the same rate for everyone, is more like the poll tax. So although we're talking a hypothetical, never gonna happen tax system, there'd be more chance of getting a high flat rate for everyone income tax passed than a high flat rate VAT.

Gav • 19th December 2018 •

stupid people failing to see what's clearly there isn't the same thing as being hidden. if the notion takes you, you can know exactly what an item costs without VAT, it tells you on the receipt. everybody knows about VAT, whether they think about it at the time or not. you couldn't in a million years figure out what your train fare would be if it wasn't for hidden taxes, because they're so well hidden. most people don't know it's happening whether they're interested/looking for it or not. that's the difference.

james • 19th December 2018 •

im assuming this only applies to the companies that actually make the packaging?what if your a just a retailer that uses mailbags or plastic packaging to send your products in the post?

jodie • 18th December 2018 •

the company that makes the mailers needs to pay more, meaning they charge you more. everybody pays.

james • 18th December 2018 •

thanks for clearing that basically the company that makes the mail bags pays the tax,but then they will just stick there prices up,so we all get stitched up somewehere down the line for it?lol

jodie • 18th December 2018 •

This is Ebay mentality! The simple fact is the whole system is flawed from top to bottom. I live in the New forest... it's a national park and should be a show case of enviromental friendliness.... Yeah right. We have one fo the worst recycling rates in the country. The list of things we can't put out for recyling is as long as your arm. We don't have wheelie bins as they are considered not in keeping with the area, so we still use masses of plastic refuse bags. They tried to restrict the opening times of the household waste recycling centres, despite fly tipping on the rise. We have to pay for green waste to be taken away. There is nothing to encourage recycling at all.... And then it hits you... Hampshire has huge incinerators, oh i mean 'energy reclaimation units'. These are used to burn most waste so that the council can bleat on about how wonderfully low their landfill rates are and how much electricity is generated... of course when you research it is the most polluting and least effective form of energy generation. So why bother with recycling... lets just burn it all! Of course it is not just here, it is happening up and down the country. Added to the mishmash of who will recycle what and its a very confusing picture. I worked out that half of my general waste bin COULD be recycled but the council have no facilities to do it. It is shameful. We need a government run waste recycling system. That way profits wont be a key point standing in its way. A network of factories could be set up to accept and process it. I know it will cost, but is it any more than the cost of the failure we already have? Or.... we could just charge more for packaging, and claim that the money will filter back to councils to pay for dealing with it. After all why try and limit it or recycle it when you can be paid to burn it!

Toby • 19th December 2018 •

wee bit off topic, but your council may well be proven the smart ones. recycling isn't the golden goose many people have made it out to be. the councils who went big on recycling are now sitting on mountains of plastic, because it's no longer worth recycling. it would be cheaper to landfill or burn. burning waste may be "one of the most polluting and least effective form of energy generation", but it's not primarily energy generation, it's waste disposal. it's less polluting than landfill, and by far the most energy-efficient form of waste disposal, being the only form of waste disposal with a net energy income. a big nuclear power plant would certainly be more efficient and less polluting at producing electricity, but how does that help you empty the bins? can your council afford a nuclear plant? and do you want one of them in your back garden?

james • 19th December 2018 •