back to article Lords call for variable VAT to cut landfill

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has said the government should do more to encourage businesses to recycle and reduce waste and take the focus away from householders. Recent attempts to reduce domestic waste by weighing dustbins and banning carrier bags should be scrapped in favour of changing the VAT regime …


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  1. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    Broken Business Model

    If your business model relies on selling shite products that break and need to be replaced, then frankly, you deserve to go out of business.

    I say, let's use taxation to make "disposable" products more expensive than their "reusable" equivalents. Alkaline batteries should cost more than NiMH (or a frigging MAINS ADAPTOR, FFS). Tissues should cost more than handkerchiefs. Paper plates should cost more than china ones. Disposable nappies should cost more than terry nappies. Those shitty plastic IDC punchdown tools should cost more than the proper metal ones. Tampax should cost more than a Mooncup. And so on.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Intelligent suggestions

    However, we have to wonder whether an unintelligent government will take much notice of them.

    Most of the government's actions so far (especially bin taxes and everything associated with it) comes under the heading of being SEEN to be doing things, yet at the same time only causing maximum inconvenience for minimal benefit.

  3. Vincent
    Paris Hilton

    I don't get it...

    So if i'm interpretating this correctly, the Law Lords want to increase VAT on products that aren't very enviromentally friendly.

    But at the same time they want to put in a "warning" system on packging to show you how environmentally friendly (Or unfriendly) a particular product is.

    Paris because i'm about as clueless as she is right now.

  4. Alan Fisher
    Paris Hilton


    Here in Ireland we have private rubbish collection firms and a free market.

    People can opt for the standar government collection scheme and pay 5 euros a time. This covers one bin for waste and another for paper and plastic.

    Or you can opt for one of the private companies and, for around £100 a year (ish) get a bin for general waste, paper, plastic and cans etc and another for glass. In other words, recycling is obligatory here and recycling more is cheaper than less! Plus you get tax breaks for using a private company of around £30 a year! So you can be green (haha I await the puns) and not too out of pocket. Why doesn't the uk impliment a similar scheme? I find for an average couple, we fill the wheelie bin once every three weeks or so now, if not longer....that's around a quarter of the landfill!

    Paris coz even she can understand the logic, it being so hot of course....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    Whilst generally approving of the aim of minimising waste, IMO removing VAT altogether is a much bigger priority. After all, it's the end consumer pays the tax, and we've already been taxed on our money when it was defined as "income", so don't need further taxes applied when it's spent as well.

  6. David Gosnell

    No doubt will be partially adopted

    i.e. bring in the reforms for businesses, and conveniently forget to scrap the bits about rubbish weighing etc.

  7. Simon

    So where is it going to fit?

    I would assume "Eco-labels" would show the consumer how friendly the packaging is the environment.

    Dont we already have nutrition levels, with guidelines for daily amounts for men and women on food. Carbs, sugar, salt, fat and calories levels on them.

    Some packages have carbon footprints levels on them. Then all that stuff about how they are trying to save the world and help the poor farmers.

    "Contains only 5 percent fat!", so its good for you, low guilt food.

    Booze has unit levels and health warnings, Ciggies have huge warning labels on them about how you are destroying your best mates health sitting next to you.

    This product is flammable or harmful, etc etc.

    Then they have ingredients and weights, then all those bar codes and "CE" labels, dont forget the "Recycle me" and "Keep your country tidy" logos. Also "May contain nuts" or "Unsuitable for such and such a person".

    Yup, on and on it goes, a sea of different labels depending on the product, till you can hardly work out what your actually buying.

    Im sure someone else could list a dozen more items that go on packaging today.

    Or you can do what most people do, ignore the information overload and just buy stuff you like.

    "Eco-Labels"? ARGGHHHHH!!!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talk about your single line that says it all!

    "There is an acceptance that creating sustainable products can be against the interests of a business based on selling replacements"

    That, right there, is the problem. The acceptance that these business models are encouraged and protected is the core of the problem - yes, it's hard to see how it might work otherwise in a consumption-fixated society, but that's not the point. If government *really* wants businesses to shift away from their current wasteful ways, then they have to start by encouraging/forcing businesses to move towards environmentally-sustainable business models - whether that means encouraging/requiring trading-in of old hardware when buying new, providing in-store recyling facilities, or even just moving back towards the idea of repairing existing equipment rather than blindly replacing it....

    Of course, while I say all this I might as well ask for airborne bacon, but that's humans for you...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They'll never get this past Brown

    This is a relatively sensible approach which would never pass muster in Brown's taxation model.

    Brown's entire model is based on taxing us as much as possible, actually offering lower taxes to more environmentally friendly options actually encourages consumers to buy more environmentally responsible options. As a result tax revenue may actually fall. This is not what Brown wants. He wants tax revenue to increase so that (1) he doesn't have to think of efficient ways to spend it and (2) he can present massively increased public spending as a positive thing even though it's solely at the expense of the tax payer. What he should be aiming for is a reduction in public spending with an improvement in public services. What he's actually delivering is a massive increase in public spending to little or no increase in public services.

    "Green" taxes are just an excuse to increase tax revenue. Shirley you can only tax things that aren't green if there is a lower (or zero!) tax alternative that is green? Which is of course what the Lords are suggesting.

  10. David Taylor
    Black Helicopters

    "choice editing"?

    I guess even the illusion of living in a free country has been abandonded...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Tax them on their packaging.

    I know all the arguments about saving waste, but frankly, theyre crap.

    Supermarkets produce far too much waste. I dont need my green beans pre packaged. I dont need apples wrapped in foam, then cellophane sealed on a plastic tray.

    I dont need my tray of blueberries to be 1/4 full, use a smaller tray. Lemons have a skin, why on earth do they need to be in a plastic bag? Same for bananas. The list is endless.

    Tax them till they bleed on unnecessary packaging.

    Prediction: the world will carry on and no-one will notice after 3 weeks.

    Exception: Whichever bunch of intellectual heavyweights implements this, please think about it. I would still like my orange juice in a container of some sort.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    After watching the so called "Environment Agency" buy a 42U communications rack for a server, which it of course didn't fint into, then buying another 42U rack for the same server, only to find they had the wrong server for the job at hand and to replace it with a desktop tower server. They then proceeded in throwing these two brand new racks into a skip. The government can take a flying leap if they think they can preach to business or home users. They need to clean up themselves first!

  13. Gerrit Hoekstra
    Paris Hilton

    ...when we still don't understand our single-rate VAT?

    Having lived in Switzerland where they have a variable VAT rate which I found perplexing and that reduced price transparency on similar (but ever so slightly different) items, I watched their Minister of Finance blushingly confess one evening on TV that he also does not understand their VAT regime. And these folks know a thing or two about money and accounting!

    So what makes you think that the UK can run an unambigous variable VAT regime when, on our single rate regime, we still have court cases between businesses and HMRC over whether something is vattable?

    The only winners here will be accountants and lawyers, but not the environment.

    Paris - because VAT was invented by a French government official

  14. dervheid

    Low Energy Lightbulbs...

    Overall, about as 'green' an idea as bio-fuels.

    That said, the 'Upper House' does actually appear to be looking at addressing the cause, rather than this governments pathetic attempts to try and treat the symptoms.

    "Pay as you Dispose" is just another stick to beat us with, in line with "Pay as you Drive" road pricing.

    And as we already have "Pay as you Drink/Wash/Piss/Crap"

    Coming soon:

    "Pay as you Breathe"

    "Pay as you Vote"

    No, wait, wasn't that one tried already?

    Still, wouldn't stop NuLabour trying it again, would it.

  15. Zmodem

    theyres only 1 way

    to reduce landfill. and thats to build refineries with 1000s of tanks of acid, then to pump the black sludge into a landfill site

  16. Anonymous Coward

    @ Recycling - Tax on plastic bags in Irl

    I've never worked out why there is a Tax on Plastic bags but none on the plastic corks in wine bottles (probably = 50 or 100 bags in weight)

    why.. if you buy bubble wrap.. it's packaged in something else .. work that one out Paris

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  18. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Are we finally starting to wake up?

    " . . .and take the focus away from householders"

    We are bombarded with pleas to turn things off standby and put in low-energy lighting while all the time there are brightly lit advertising signs that eat up a hell of a lot more energy than my mobe charger and telly and all the rest of the stuff plugged in at night. The only difference is that we are consumers of products and they are sellers of products and for some unknown reason that's enough to leave them to light up the night sky without apparently any reminder to reduce power or just turn the things off.

    But there's so much dosh and votes at stake as local councils are desperate to rent out all available space to advertising companies in order to prop up budgets. And no, you can shove the false 'saving the planet with Carbon Balancing (tm)' crap as it's only any good for growing trees suitable for Ikea furniture (which gets sent to the dump in about 4 years anyway).

  19. James Anderson

    WHat is wrong with landfill?

    I know the Dutch, Germans and Swiss have a problem with a lack of suitable sites but the UK is covered with big holes in the ground, to say nothing of the low lying waste ground around our coast.

    Oh the greenhouse gas thing? Well if they produce Methane it can be captured and used profitably.

    CO2 footprint? If you bury a ton of paper packaging youv'e just captured half ton of carbin for the next few hundred years.

    This is just another example of the lack of any actual science behind the eco doctrines.

    Most of the "green" policies fall into this "wear a hair shirt and save the planet" category.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    People in glass houses ..

    Having worked at a number of Government sites, and having seen that not one of them had the facilities for recycling a plastic Coke bottle (supplied by the on-site restaurant), I think they should put their own house in order before they start laying down the law about companies producing such quantities of waste.

  21. Alan Fisher

    @ Andrew

    Things have changed now with the tax breaks and competition and, to be honest, only the terminally lazy have problems with the system as you get one bin for one thing and it's not charged by volume. We can put out a quarter-full or completely full bin, doesn't matter.

    as far as plastic bags go; who has ever had cupboards or drawers full of the things which they proceeded to just throw away? This way you think; keep some bags and reuse them. The charge for bags, while a pain the bum when you're in a hurry or forgot to bring a bag, is a great idea i think. It's way better than anything Brown has come up with anyway.

    No system is perfect though, obviously, when one involves humans in the mix as they can be lazy and so forth and not capable of simple mental

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    A Mooncup?

    ....In the context of the sentence I don't EVEN want to know.

    Paris probably already does...

  23. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: WTF

    A Mooncup, dear AC, is a small moulded piece of for chrissakes just use Google unless you're too damn squeamish you enormous ass.

    And no, actually, the decorators are not in.

  24. Steve

    @ A J Stiles

    I never thought I'd read the word Mooncup on these pages, you have put a smile on my face.

  25. dervheid

    And no, actually, the decorators are not in.

    But I suspect they may be soon!

    I speak as a married man. I have the experience and scars, both kinds, to back up this prediction!

  26. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: And no, actually, the decorators are not in.

    You, sir, are an idiot.

    Anyway, you're just jealous because you can't blame your behaviour on your hormones, like *we* can. Not that we need ever trouble ourselves with that, because gentlemen like yourself are so willing to leap in and do it for us.

    Still, women, eh? Chuh!

  27. Tomothy Toemouse

    Agree @David Gosnell

    "No doubt will be partially adopted"

    Well, half-arsed is the govenrments middle name

  28. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    re: Re WTF

    Ms Bee

    I have gone and Googled 'mooncup' and am now a lot better informed than before.

    I am less of an ignorant git than I was a couple of minutes ago.


  29. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    re: Re WTF

    Mr Phud

    Well done. You may have a biscuit.

  30. Chris Green

    Cut Waste? - How About...

    It's environmentally most efficient to go for source, NOT end user and that should outway the desire for government to pick the soft option of hitting the consumer.

    (1) Make it law that all packaging may be returned to the seller at no cost to the buyer, other than what it takes to get the packaging back to any branch of that supplier.

    Local authorities could then find out who sells what fills the dust cart and could charge THEM, not us and that would encourage the supplier to demand manufacturers change packaging habits.

    (2) Require that the percentage of naked product volume, against package overall volume, be displayed prominently on packaging/item description displays.

    If the value is found to be wrong, force a correction. The cost of correction should outway the benefit of lying. Serial offenders should risk additional fines.

    Goverrment may then choose to clobber those that cause most waste or reward those that reduce the waste, according to a tot-up of the volumes involved.

    I'm thinking Compact Flash cards here, where the packaging is anything but compact and foodstuffs where air and packing are used to make the product look bigger, wasting materials for the sake of attempting to hoodwink the consumer.

  31. Daniel

    Re: And no, actually, the decorators are not in.


    I already knew what a moon cup was, and I'm certainly not squeamish about the topic - not only am I, too, married, but I'm familiar with reusable menstrual pads /and/ I do the laundry around here. I fail to see the reason for squeamishness. HOWEVER, I totally don't get the reference to decorators, and yes, I tried google.


    P.S. - I have NEVER blamed a woman's behavior on her hormones. I don't believe in letting people of either gender off that easily. :)

  32. RW

    @ A J Stiles

    "If your business model relies on selling shite products that break and need to be replaced, then frankly, you deserve to go out of business."

    Welcome to Walmart.

    "let's use taxation to make "disposable" products more expensive than their "reusable" equivalents . . . Tissues should cost more than handkerchiefs. Paper plates should cost more than china ones. Disposable nappies should cost more than terry nappies. . . "

    You forget the costs of reusing the reusables. Handkerchiefs, china plates, and terry nappies all have to be washed, and hot water is almost mandatory for this. To say nothing of the bleaches and detergents required.

    Two data points to screw your head around with:

    1. A Hummer has less environmental impact than a Prius over the lifetime of the vehicle. The Prius uses expensive technology, the hummer bog-standard technology (which is also cheap technology). Sure, the hummer burns more gasoline, but that's offset by lower costs of production and maintenance. (Don't forget that the batteries in the Prius, full of heavy metals, need replacing about every five years.)

    2. A styrofoam coffee cup uses less non-renewable resources than a paper coffee cup. Papermaking is a dirty, energy-intensive process with lots of chemicals as input. It's not just bashing a few trees into fiber and Bob's your uncle. Fortunately, papermills no longer use mercury as they once did, but they're still real resource gluttons.(I know the guy who did the analysis leading to this conclusion and he knows his stuff; you can believe it.)

  33. dervheid

    Mood swings?

    Aggressive, sarcastic then patronising.

    Nothing like PMT at all then!

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Its easy

    You get the heads of the 5 main supermarkets into No.10

    You tell them you have assessed the environmental impact of their products.

    You tell them that unless they reduce that impact by 30% in one year's time, they will be fined the total of their entire profit this year. Next year it will be profit +10% and so on until they meet the standard.

    You don't tell them how you did the calculation, no chance of fiddling the figures.

    They would whine and whinge, but you would get far more effect than any number of blue bins, for a total of 30 mins effort.

    Put the onus where it needs to lie, those creating the problem.

  35. Neil


    Educate the masses to appreciate being green and feel warm and fuzzy about it, meanwhile ensure that products can be produced and packaged greenly at no additional cost to regular packaging. The result, green products sell well, non-green products have to adapt to survive or die. Problem solved.

  36. Anonymous Coward


    Obviously no one here has a sense of humour any more. Sad, really sad.

    So maybe, just maybe we should just go back to running the women out of the village at that time of month, eh?

  37. Joe

    It's got to come from above.

    When I saw a family put a single pineapple in one of those thin plastic "loose fruit" bags I realised the masses would never think their way out of it.

    But make it a financial incentive for business - money talks!

  38. Roger Pearse

    Lucky we're so rich...

    ...that we can afford to have teams of people sitting around thinking up ways to make EVERYTHING cost more.

  39. alyn


    Try buying a copy of Rogers Profanisaurus. It has slang expressions for all body parts/functions.

    P.s. Sarah Bee when you said "have a biscuit" did you mean an air biscuit?(q.v.)

    PARP!! Pardon me, I had a curry last night.(a musical one)

  40. Mo


    Between-the-lines suggestion: reduced/zero-rate VAT for more environmentally-friendly/sustainable products

    By the time it reaches the Commons, it will have morphed into: increased VAT for environmentally-unfriendly/non-sustainable products

    On a side-note, Sarah's comments are possibly the best I've read in any comments page for a wee while.

  41. dervheid

    @ Mo.

    stop being a Kiss-ass.

    You'll only inflate the lassie's ego (even more)

  42. Jim
    Dead Vulture

    Re: WHat is wrong with landfill?

    One word: Leachate

    Another, often used phrase: Compromised lining

    Note: Never happens (apparently) according to those in favour of landfill.

    I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader

  43. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    Light bulbs, and Environmental impact of Vista

    @dervheid: The current batch of low-wattage bulbs are mostly fluorescent, which (as I'm sure you know) have their own set of disposal problems that help make up for their energy efficiency. If not more than.

    I don't know what it costs environmentally to make an LED but they last for decades and don't contain the same poisons as the fluorescents. Unfortunately they're very expensive at this time.

    But in the long run I think (unless something better comes along first) that LEDs will proved to be effective substitutes, and shouldn't have the environmental impact that I believe you're complaining about.

    On a different subject:

    What's the environmental impact of being forced to switch to Vista? OK, buy a new computer and it comes with Vista instead of XP, that's OK. (I mean, maybe not, but that's not my point today.)

    But Microsoft is trying to get everybody to dump XP and switch to Vista. This can be difficult if you've an older system. Of course, many Microsoft apologists will tell you not to be a cheapass and just upgrade to something modern. But ignoring the fact that not all of us have infinite budgets for buying a new top-of-the-line computer every six months, has anybody considered what the impact might be of replacing all those "obsolete" systems that run XP (or *nix) just fine but struggle with Vista, if they will even run it at all?

    Why should I throw away a perfectly good working computer just to get the latest and greatest DRM? I mean, um, flashy interface?

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