Tax hard-to-recycle products says think tank

The excesses of our throw-away consumer society should be addressed by a tax on disposable, one-use goods and products which are difficult to recycle, according to a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research published this week.

The IPPR waded into the waste debate earlier in the year with their call for pay-as-you-throw charges which would see wasteful households pick up the tab for the collection of their extra rubbish, while those who put out less to the bin men would benefit financially.

Now the institute has teamed up with Green Alliance to produce a report examining financial incentives which it hopes could help the public get the picture that throw away cameras are not environmentally acceptable and persuade them to cut back on disposable razors.

The report says that non-rechargeable batteries should also be taxed, as should cardboard drinks cartons such as those made by Tetra Pak, which are difficult to recycle as they are made of layered card, plastic and metal foil.

As with its report on pay-as-you-throw schemes, the IPPR points to successful case studies in Europe where such taxes have already been introduced.

In Belgium in 1996, for example, a charge of around £5 was added to disposal cameras which is waived if the camera is recycled or reused. As a result, rates for recycling and reuse are at 80%.

Meanwhile in Germany a charge of just 1.5p on cardboard drinks cartons to pay for their collection and disposal has led to recycling rates of 65%, compared with 10% in the UK.

Nick Pearce, Director of IPPR, said: “We have become an increasingly throw-away society, reliant on cheap, disposable and hard-to-recycle goods, adding each year to the UK’s 300 million tonne rubbish mountain.

“Business needs to take greater responsibility for the whole life of products, by paying a product tax that goes towards payment for disposal. This is only fair if we are going to introduce ‘pay-as-you-throw’ charges for collecting household rubbish. And it’s the best way to stop businesses manufacturing hard-to-recycle products.”

Julie Hill, Green Alliance, said: “Taxing disposable products to encourage consumers to switch to more durable alternatives, or taxing products to pay for their recycling, will give manufacturers no choice but to ultimately design out waste.”

Sam Bond

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