Tax on packaging proposal slammed by industry body

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tetra pak, Recycling, European union, Waste

An influential industry body has hit back at a call by
environmental and consumer advocacy groups to put a tax on
disposable and 'hard-to-recycle' packaging.

The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (Incpen), whose members include Tetra Pak, Coca Cola and Cadbury's,said research produced in favour of the tax was faulty and ignores major issues involved inpackaging products.

Incpen argues that it is more important to optimise the use of material and energy resources. The body said that effective packaging makes a substantial contribution towards fighting against climate change.

"Packaging prevents waste. The main reason for using packaging is to prevent product wastage. It enables products to be brought safely from farms and factories to consumers,"​ Incpen said in a pressrelease on 23 November.

The group was responding report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Green Alliance, whichproposes the UK government tax on packaged products, including foods, that use disposable and 'hard-to-recycle' packaging.

Waste management and recycling have become increasingly important to food producers in the light of pressure from legislation including the EU Landfill Directive, the UK government's commitment to reducing waste and emissions,and consumer demands for more environmentally friendly packaging and solutions.

The proposal is aimed at targeting Britain's low recycling rates. Just over a quarter of goods are recycled inthe UK. By comparison 65 per cent of packaging is recycled rate in the Netherlands.

The proposed levies on packaging is similar to taxes already in operation in Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.

Thereport also suggests a levy could apply to plastic packaging, which it claims only two types are recycled in the UK.

Significantly for the food industry, 'hard-to-recycle' multi-layered beverage cartons, using cardboard, plastic and metal foil were specifically targeted in the IPPR report. The body named as a culprit Tetra Pak, who makes half of the four billion cartons used annually in theUK.

The IPPR said: "Currently four billion cartons are used in the UK each year but less than 10 per cent are recycled. This compares with rates in excess of 65 per cent in countries such as Germany, where there is a 1.9p charge on cartons to pay for collection and in Belgium, where there is a 0.5p charge."

In a statement issued to FoodProductionDaily.com, Richard Hands, environment manager of Tetra Pak UK & Ireland, said:

"Tetra Pak welcomes the IPPR and Green Alliance report "A Zero Waste UK". Waste is a vital issue, and that is why the beverage carton industry has already taken a leadership position by committing £1.2 million of investment for 2007 to accelerate carton collection and reprocessing in the UK. Cartons can be recycled. What has so far been largely absent in this country is the infrastructure to enable collection. Our increased funding will help to establish this, and to push UK carton recycling rates towards the 30 per cent average achieved across the EU."

In most European countries used packaging is left at the doorstep in special containers or bags for collection or, alternatively, citizens take it to drop-off containers or collectionpoints, according to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE).

As a general practice, beverage carton packages are either collected in a designated paper or paper packaging container or in the same container as other lightweight packaging such as plastic bottles and cans, ACE stated.

In Austria citizens separate out beverage cartons in a special cardboard "öko-Box" which is either placed for collection at their doorstep or directly mailed to a nominated recycler. This kind of recovering and recycling measure has not yet been implemented in the UK yet.

The IPPR proposes that revenue used from taxing producers would fund similar recovery and recycling operations in the UK.

The report was published just ahead of next week's UK Chancellor's pre-budget statement. The Chancellor'sbudget of 2006 dedicated a whole section to improving waste management restated the government's commitment to polluter pays principle to correct market failures.

The IPPR notes that while some countries require producers to cover the costs of collection and treatment of the products they make, producer responsibility in the UK currently does not bite individual producers enough to force a rethink.

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