Letter: Green tax rebate on the empties

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report (3 June) that the number of miles travelled by empty lorries in 1996 was 28.7 per cent of the total for all journeys by these vehicles. Although an improvement over previous years, this is still a scandalously high figure.

In the Netherlands, all soft-drink containers are regularly returned to shops for a refund of the tax on the container. Nearly all such containers (glass and plastic bottles, as well as cans) attract this tariff. The "deposit" on a bottle of beer, for instance, is often twice the value of the contents, thus encouraging people to return any empty containers they come across.

These "empties" are passed on up the supply chain by retailers, through wholesalers, either back to the original manufacturer for reuse, or for recycling. Whenever a truck makes a delivery to a shop, it takes away the returned empty packaging.

A welcome spin-off is a reduction in street litter. Sharp-eyed children (and others) soon start retrieving and redeeming containers discarded by their more careless or selfish peers.

The Labour administration should emulate the Dutch model.

MIKE STEELE

London SE4

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