Ministers urged to tax waste

Landfill levy could spell end of the throw-away society
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Products such as disposable cameras and printer ink cartridges should be targeted with a new "waste tax", according to an influential think tank close to New Labour.

Firms are coming under increasing pressure to reduce packaging and modify products that are hard to recycle. One minister last week even called on consumers to tear off unnecessary packaging in shops before paying for goods.

Now the Government is being urged to introduce a specific tax for goods that end up in landfill sites. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Green Alliance want Britain to follow Belgium and slap a £5 levy on each of the 15m disposable cameras sold in the UK every year not re-used or recycled, for example.

Their report, A Zero Waste UK, also identifies batteries, disposable razors and ink cartridges as suitable for a new tax. And it criticises drinks carton-maker Tetra Pak; layered cardboard, plastic and foil cartons are hard to recycle.

The report's authors want ministers to consider collection fees similar to Germany's, where a 1.5p-a-carton levy has helped boost recycling to 65 per cent. They say Britain is being left behind in the rush to a "zero-waste" society.

Although giving councils the power to introduce "pay-as-you-throw" charges for collecting household waste can help boost recycling rates from just 27 per cent, waste needs to be stopped at source, says the think tank.

"We have become an increasingly throw-away society, adding each year to the UK's 300m tonne rubbish mountain," said Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR. He said that businesses should pay a product tax, to go towards disposal.

Julie Hill, of Green Alliance, added: "Taxing disposable products ... will give manufacturers no choice but to ultimately design out waste."

But a Tetra Pak spokesman said a new tax was not necessary as the carton industry had already "taken the lead voluntarily" in helping local councils collect and reuse its products.