A New £1 Billion Tax Says We Shouldn’t Recycle Plastics

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Sure we should recycle some things and equally certainly we shouldn’t recycle others. The trick is in knowing what falls into which class. Even, to have a method of deciding that difficult point. To an economist this is easy, recycle where recycling adds value, don’t where it doesn’t. That simplicity meaning that this recent decision by the government proves we should not be recycling plastic. It’s the very fact that they want to raise £1 billion in tax in order to fund the recycling which shows we shouldn’t be doing the plastics recycling.

Supermarkets, retailers and major drinks brands are set to pay tens of millions of pounds more towards recycling their used packaging under the government’s new waste strategy expected to be published this month, the Guardian understands.

Supermarkets and other major producers of packaging waste currently pay a small fraction of the cost of collecting and recycling the 11m tonnes of packaging waste produced in the UK.

Ministers are considering several options to improve recycling, stop abuses to the export market in plastic packaging and make companies pay more towards collecting and recycling their own waste.

Sources with knowledge of the new waste strategy, which is due to be published in a few weeks, said it contained plans to significantly increase contributions from retailers and producers from an average of about £70m a year to between £500m and £1bn a year.

There’s one logical error here. We’re the consumers, we’re the people using the packaging, we should be paying whatever the costs are.

But it’s that other error which is rather larger. Yes, quite obviously, we don’t want to litter the countryside with plastic. Looks unseemly and there’re even rumours that various bits of wildlife don’t like it either. OK, so, no littering with plastic.

That means we need to make sure we do waste management with the plastic we use. OK, seems fair enough. So, which method of waste management should we use?

We can throw it in holes in the ground, we could burn it. We could recycle it. Each, any, of these does our waste management for us. So, how do we choose between them?

One useful method would be which is the cheapest method of doing our waste management. And recycling is more expensive than the other two – that must be so, that’s why there is the call for the tax. To pay that extra cost. Yet the very fact that there is an extra cost is the very reason why we shouldn’t be recycling. For do note that higher cost means “consumes more resources” and it would be more than a little perverse to recycle to save resources by using more resources.

All of which means that we shouldn’t be recycling plastics. The very fact that it’s more expensive, that we need a new and extra tax to fund it, is all we need to know about that decision. No.

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John Davis
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John Davis

If something is worth recycling then someone will pay you for it.

Moosealot
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Moosealot

When recycling, the value of material per unit increases the more of it you have. One empty Coke can isn’t worth jack, but a tonne of them is a different matter entirely. The truism probably ought to be that if somebody will willingly take something off your hands without charging you for it then it’s worth recycling, but as we have socialised rubbish collection and the taxpayer will take away anything for ‘free’ then the value of recycling is artificially depressed. The solution would be to charge for waste disposal which would make aggregation worthwhile, but as soon as you… Read more »

John Davis
Guest
John Davis

If something is worth recycling then someone will pay you for it.

Moosealot
Guest
Moosealot

When recycling, the value of material per unit increases the more of it you have. One empty Coke can isn’t worth jack, but a tonne of them is a different matter entirely. The truism probably ought to be that if somebody will willingly take something off your hands without charging you for it then it’s worth recycling, but as we have socialised rubbish collection and the taxpayer will take away anything for ‘free’ then the value of recycling is artificially depressed. The solution would be to charge for waste disposal which would make aggregation worthwhile, but as soon as you… Read more »