Saturday, October 20, 2007

Netherlands launches tax on packaging

From January 2008, the Netherlands will employ a carbon-based packaging tax that could herald the start of wider EU movement forcing companies to take CO2 emissions into account when making packaging decisions, according to Sustainable is Good and Environmental Leader reports.

CO2 emissions from the production of each kilogram of packaging will form the basis of the calculations.

Changes in packaging production for the Dutch market could give international companies a chance to save money and improve their standing in other European markets, by promoting their products' reduced carbon footprint.

Such measures will appeal to consumers, as the ERI shows 48% of consumers are now looking for less packaging when they shop. This is particularly true if regulators introduce personal carbon allowances, as consumers' carbon footprint may well benefit from a reduction in the CO2 emissions going into product packaging.

Makes me ask though: Will a carbon-based packaging tax encourage companies to make their packaging more easy to recycle, using either existing or new materials?

1 comment:

Barney said...

Hi Karen, just discovered this site, looks V interesting.

Regarding the above story, I recently suggested exactly this idea to both DEFRA and the London Mayor regarding plastic packaging (very lengthy copy of which I shall paste below if there is no character limit!).
Got the usual PR response, not very inspiring or hopeful, but brilliant to see that other countries are (as usual) thinking way ahead of us.


Letter to DEFRA/Mayor:

I am becoming increasingly concerned with the growing amount of plastic packaging being buried in landfill sites.

The worst offenders seem to be the food / cosmetic industry, with most of the population not giving a thought to the endless products they are buying each day, from a pint of milk to shampoo & shower gel, bottled water and drinks, washing-up liquid & cleaning products, supermarket pre-packed meat (AND often veg!)... The list is endless, and that's not even considering the hard plastic bottle tops, carton openings, fittings and attachments to glass bottles and containers...

There are a few positive steps forward, relying mainly on individual companies such as Innocent Smoothies or Daylesford Organics rather than government bodies or local authorities, who just seem to be burying their heads in the soil and hoping the problem goes away.

Then there's childrens toys, growing in size to plastic ride-on cars and toy kitchens, storage, furniture, which all must end their lives somewhere.

Another extremely concerning area are businesses selling food at lunch times. Every day in London alone there thousands and thousands of outlets, from small independent caf├ęs to market stalls to huge multinational chains, filling up cheap plastic containers with their food, which almost invariably get thrown in a bin on the street or at work, then carted off to fill up that big stinking hole in the ground in the suburbs.
And THEN there's the plastic cutlery that, without asking, is chucked into your bag before you leave.
And even if you decide to eat in, you are quite often just served in the same plastic container and cutlery, which can only be down to the outlets laziness, or complete disregard for the waste they're producing.

Again there ARE some exceptions, and AGAIN it seems to be down to individual outlets or retailers to try and find alternatives, such as Fresh & Wilds brown cardboard boxes & wooden forks, or Planet Organic / Greens & Beans using containers made from reed pulp.

There doesn't seem to be any regulations stopping or limiting the use of plastic, when there is quite often an alternative (what did we do BEFORE plastic?). I'm sure the decision must usually be based on cost (profit).

Firstly there could be a tax introduced on use of plastic, making it both more appealing to find alternatives, and to allow manufacturers using greener (and higher cost) materials the chance to compete fairly on price.
This tax could then be used to research & develop more sustainable alternatives, such as a system for biodegrading corn-starch packaging, or developing calcium-based packaging, or providing free (or at cost) biodegradable alternatives for food outlets.

I would like to believe that this is not just a personal concern, and that there are many other members of the public / authorities who feel the same way. Unfortunately I just don't see any evidence of this.

I have often read that plastic takes 500 years to break down. But how can anyone know it WILL be broken down in 500 years, when it has not even been around for 150 years? Will future archeologists be digging up meat trays, plastic forks and bleach bottles, and referring to this era as 'the plastic age'? Or will we have found a new dumping ground to live on by then?

Please can you look into the matter, and advise me of any initiatives you are already taking.

I look forward to hearing your reply.
Regards, Barney Bryant.