Packaging Tax for manufactures to pay for recycling schemes

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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.

Pro Pak'R Air Cushion Recycling lack of adviceThere 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?

12 Responses

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. thanks for clearing that up.so 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

  4. 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!

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