Thursday, July 06, 2006

Several British media outlets reported this week that a vast majority of Brits would accept a tax levied on non recyclable household waste. The argument is that if councils can decrease the volume (and therefore cost) of waste they have to manage, they can charge a lower Council Tax (our equivalent of rates)... a classic example of tax shifting.

So rather than squeezing more out of consumers (as was the argument used by opponents of the NZ carbon tax), those who are able to reduce kerbside waste are rewarded for putting some thought toward their "throw away" shopping mentality. Take from the bad to give to the good.

Although New Zealand is heralded as the clean green paradise our habits suggest otherwise. We throw out about double the amount of domestic waste per capita as Britons and around six times as much as many European countries where household waste is currently levied. (I'd like to be proven wrong on these stats, but they're the best I can find.)

It is timely then, that the Greens waste minimisation bill got drawn from the ballot a month or so back. We need to address solid waste now, and unfortunately it can't be addressed by the market. The bill places emphasis on product stewardship (producer responsibility) - in recognition that voluntary measures such as the Packaging Accord have been a failure. So we could eventually see here what is apparently commonplace in Germany. Supermarkets where you fill your own container for many products.

As it is, those of us who do make an effort to reduce our rubbish in effect subsidise those who waste indiscriminately. So why not send an accurate economic message by changing the rating focus...?

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