I've got a solution to the recycling problem. Pass a law that says that every company has to accept back any products they provide, when they reach end-of-life. So, for example, retailers would have to accept packaging waste back from customers, and the wholesaler that sold them the product would have to accept it back from them. Internalizing the cost of dealing with waste would motivate companies to make less disposable stuff, and find ways to make it easier to recycle:

The other solution, suggested a trust in Aotearoa who deal with e-waste is to make importers and manufacturers pay a waste disposal levy for every product they introduce into the country. The money would go into a pool to fund waste management projects, and the levy would reflect the real cost of disposing of a given product in an eco-friendly manner.

@strypey either option would have my support in a heartbeat. sad that these sort of practical initiatives always lose because its portrayed as "these rich eco elites want to make life even more expensive for the poor by increasing taxes", but i say connect the dots and realize not screwing over the planets in everyones best interest ultimately

@mlg of course that's the PR key message. How else would you make people join forces with the corporations who are trashing our habitat for short-term profit, against the environmental activists who are desperately trying to prevent that? Educating people that businesses are taxing the public, by making us pay for kerbside collection of rubbish they create for private profit, might help inoculate folks against that kind of PR.

The EU has this for a lot of products, but not specifically for packaging. Maybe it should.

There is a way to keep the advantages for single-stream recycling while still allowing better sorting at the source: Use color-coded bags to allow those folks who are willing to make the effort to pre-sort.

It may slightly increase plastic use, but you can use non-petroleum-based bags, and they *are* being sent to recycling, so they should be possible to process properly and not leak into the oceans too much.

@clacke in Aotearoa (NZ), most cities collect glass separately from other recyclables, and ask citizens to seal paper inside plastic supermarket bags before putting them in the unsorted recycling (we've just banned single-use plastic shopping bags though, so ...). Some cities are starting to test having a green bin for food scraps and garden waste, which is sent to large-scale windrow composting areas.

@strypey As far as packaging goes that's already the law in Germany. I have not seen the decrease in packaging though. Maybe due to it not being the only return channel as you can also put it in the (separated) household thrash.

@ckeen how long has the law been in place? Is it actually enforced? Are the penalties pathetically small fines that are cheaper than what it would cost them to comply, or reduce their waste production?

@strypey it's not a bad idea, but I don't see anyone taking their dirty plastic wrapping from groceries back into the store when they can just dump it. hardly anyone would bother recycling even as it is if the containers weren't on every corner

@strypey Looking around my office...

I have literally no idea where most of these things came from.

As a business, I'm not taking back your waste unless you show a receipt. Why should I?

Like so many other failed recycling schemes, this one fails at usability, dumping a shit ton of extra cognitive load on the average joe. Even people who care will be hard pressed to get it right - and most people won't care.


If there was some extra deposit money being charged (which goes to a government fund, not to the vendor), similar to how this works for beer and cola bottles, then people would be incentivized to save the receipts and bring the products back to a collection point for recycling, getting their money back.


@humanetech @strypey It's still way overcomplicated.

The only reason people like this sort of scheme, is because they want to punish businesses.

But I agree that paying people for garbage is the only way this gets fixed. Any plan suggesting otherwise is basically a plan suggesting everyone who is struggling to get by, suddenly start to care more about rubbish than they care about their own survival. Not gonna happen.


Don't know if it is overcomplicated, or just more complicated. Regulation and processing infrastructure is needed.

If you want to raise awareness on sustainability (quality, durability, repairability, recycling/upcycling, etc.) you could differentiate deposit amount paid and refunded. You could fund this from the system itself and create jobs in the process.

But limits competitiveness, and is actively lobbied against. Should be widely adopted to work. #capitalism sigh 😩


@humanetech @strypey I meant the original post, putting the burden of collection on the retailers, is overcomplicated.

Rereading, I have nothing against a scheme where collection points hand out money in exchange for well sorted rubbish. That has been proven to work, just needs funding.

Funding from the system itself ultimately means the consumer pays. So you make food for poor people more expensive if you're not very careful.

This sort of thing should mostly come from normal taxes.

@HerraBRE Ah, yes.

BTW Especially for packaging a separate tax can be effective, especially if separately mentioned on e.g your supermarket receipt ("groceries $40, packaging tax $2"). And then use the tax revenue in a separate fund to subsidize sustainable packaging solutions and plastic pollution cleanup.

We had this in The Netherlands, but was quickly stopped (I think due to industry lobbyists).

@HerraBRE guess who disproportionately pays normal taxes? Poor people, especially in countries like Aotearoa (NZ) that have (Goods and Service Tax), and don't have fair taxes on wealth and business, capital gains, inheritance etc. What funding waste management from normal taxes *doesn't* do is allow customers to get their food cheaper by buying it from companies with more eco-friendly packaging, sending a cumulative market signal to the companies that don't.

India is developing nation with has 28% GST.

28% is 1/3 of total cost


@strypey @humanetech If the poor are disproportionally paying, that's not what I'd call normal taxes. To clarify, I meant income tax and capital gains, which are proportional to income and this share the burdens more fairly. Smaller tax incentives may indeed help nudge the market in more environmentally friendly directions, but the poor will foot the bill, so be careful.

@HerraBRE what kind of tax regime is "normal" depends totally on where you live ;) Outside of a few Scandinavian countries, I believe the tax regime I describe is currently "normal taxes" in most places. I'd love to learn that I'm wrong about that, because it sucks.

> the poor will foot the bill

How? They can just keep buying the cheapest products available, but their custom will mostly shift to companies with eco-friendly packaging, durable, repairable products etc.


@strypey You just complained about sales taxes and how they hurt the poor and spare the rich, which is exactly right.

How can you then fail to see that adding the cost of waste management to the products themselves is the exact same thing, with the same dynamics?

This is fuzzy wishful thinking, advocating this is quite literally doing the neoliberals' work for them. Which given your tone, seems like something you'd prefer to avoid?

@strypey But just to clarify my position on this - I do think it would be useful to use some form of incentive so eco-friendly products have a competitive advantage. We should do that.

But I believe there are better ways to achieve that and fund this sort of thing.

You're proposing very radical changes to how retail works, why not also be radical about mostly funding it using a sane progressive tax scheme?

@HerraBRE I totally support a move (back) to a progressive tax system. I've been fighting a rearguard action against the 1980s neoliberal coup for most of my life. But this is orthogonal to what I'm proposing, because as I've said, I don't think the public should be paying to deal with waste problems that profit-making businesses create. Business should pay those costs, and if they pass those costs onto customers, good! That just gives eco-friendly businesses a leg up that they desperately need.

@HerraBRE the only reason to play the 'pity the poor' card here, presuming you're not a neoliberal trying to defend corporate profits (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt ;), is that you think eco-friendly packaging, repairable goods etc have to cost more than eco-destructive, disposable ones. That's only true until these things start to get done at scale, with serious investment, just as with tech.

@HerraBRE for example, a huge amount of the disposable plastic that gets used could be replaced with paper packaging made from recycled paper/ cardboard/ wood waste. Then it could be collected for composting, and neither the manufacturer or retailer would have to accept it back. Then there are concepts like compostable packaging made by mycelium that need investment:

@HerraBRE a huge amount of packaging waste can be avoided just with smarter design. In China, an appliance like a kettle arrives in a plastic bag, with polystyrene spacers, in a cardboard box. In Aotearoa (NZ) the only part of that you get with the same kettle is the cardboard box, with some cardboard spacers. If the retailers had to take the waste back, and the manufacturer had to take it from them, most of it would just never get made. Which is *exactly* what we need to happen.

@strypey "the only reason..."

Nope. Gonna stop you right there, that's incorrect. One of us doesn't understand the dynamics of how these things play out, and we're not going to figure out which one in this thread.

So I'm just going to bid you good day and walk away from this thread now.

Take care!

@HerraBRE fair enough. I've done some environmental science papers at undergrad level, and I completed a Design Certificate course, so I'm not a total noob in these discussions. Happy to read any relevant articles you care to share on the topic, if you want to help bring me up to speed, but please pitch them appropriately :)

@strypey Fair enough. That's pretty much what I figured was driving you.

I fundamentally disagree with the whole us vs. them attitude lefties have towards businesses.

I don't see how businesses paying results in anything BUT the buck getting passed to the people, either in the form of lower pay, less jobs or more expensive products. And the "bad" businesses who deserve to be "punished" are the ones who pass the buck most effectively.

We're just going to have to agree to disagree here. 🙂

> I fundamentally disagree with the whole us vs. them attitude lefties have towards businesses.

This is a strawman. I have an incredibly positive attitude towards ecologically responsible businesses, as you can see in a number of my posts in this discussion. It's not about "us vs. them", it's about responsible businesses vs. the irresponsible businesses that get invisible subsidies from making the public pay to clean up their mess, at the expense of the ones who do the right thing.

Also, how is paying out of general taxation *not*
> the buck getting passed to the people


@HerraBRE @strypey I think that there is a lot that can be done to right the situation before we even get to complicated regulation or taxation regimes to "de-externalize" the costs avoided by mass manufacturing (like NZ, Canada has a regressive, complex GST so complexity isn't always a barrier to implementing something).

We already have very elaborate carbon emissions reporting and a "price on carbon" (the numbers of which are just estimates anyways but we still do it)...

@HerraBRE @strypey ...we already track production and sales of electronics and other manufactured goods more closely than carbon emissions, and it wouldn't be any more complicated to track who made what was returned for recycling.

We don't have to force manufacturers to accept obsolete and broken goods back directly but we CAN qualify a "price on disposal" just as we have a "price on carbon" which would make planned obsolescence less economically viable for them...

@HerraBRE @strypey ...externalizing costs is something that is often overlooked in general and when the ability to do so is reduced the beneficiaries of it say "but then everything gets more expensive because we have to pass the costs on to our customers". But they already to that.

Amazon and many other retailers for example pays such low wages and hire so many temp and part timers (to reduce obligations to pay benefits) that their employees have to rely on social assistance to live...

@HerraBRE @strypey instead of customers paying more for shipping and handling at checkout, we all pay (not just poor people but even them) through taxation to fund social programmes more than we would otherwise.

Again, policies could be enacted to quantify "social costs" though already established payroll deduction reporting to determine how much assistance is provided to the workforces of various big employers.

This kind of shift is achievable though it will take time and effort.

> would make planned obsolescence less economically viable for them...

Yes, this is the goal. I'm totally open to suggestions about the most politically realistic ways of getting there, which will likely vary from country to country. We're just spitballing here ;)

@strypey @HerraBRE I just find the discussion interesting. I look at certain things holistically and try to keep ideological bias to a minimum. Conventional means of taxing business seem to encourage investment but are largely decoupled from the actual impact/costs to society.

TBH I would be fine if businesses paid zero income tax as long as they paid the true and full costs associated with their business activities (everything from inputs to proper wages to waste disposal costs).

@msh are you familiar with Modern Monetary Theory? According to , the main purpose of collecting normal taxes is *not* to pay for government spending. On the contrary, government spending puts money into the economy, and taxation takes it out again. So running a deficit allows the (internal) economy to grow, and running a surplus forces it to shrink. This makes sense within an isolated national economy, but I'm still trying to nut out how it relates to a networked global economy.

@strypey @msh

My understanding is, but I have no references and am very open to correction, in an open global economy:

1) It basically only works entirely like that if you're the country issuing the the world currency reserve currency.

2) If you're powerful and credible enough to issue your loans in your own currency, it works a bit like that, but people will be more wary of you running too big a pile of sovereign debt compared to your turnover.

3) If you can't even issue your debt in your own currency, you're just a normal business with an unusual business model.

Hong Kong is special, as it has its own currency, but it has no central bank and it doesn't use sovereign debt to create currency or finance operations. The only HKD that exist are those issued by the Monetary Authority (HKMA) in exchange for USD, those issued by the private banks, as loans and as 20-to-1000-dollar bills, and those issued by the HKMA as coins and 10-dollar bills.

The government does borrow money, but not as an economic instrument, only to finance specific projects, and the level of debt is nil compared to most countries.

International financial arcanery 

@clacke these arguments are logical, but I suspect that logic is sound only within a framework of neo-classical assumptions (for example that capital can flow globally with no cross-border friction). I'm hoping we can scare up someone who knows much more about than I do, who can point out which of these assumptions are wrong, and how, and how MMT describes the international financial situation.

Sovereignty in a globalized economy 

> If you can't even issue your debt in your own currency, you're just a normal business with an unusual business model.

This is definitely true for local government in (city, district, and regional councils). If it's true for central governments, it has disturbing implications for human-scale government, and democracy in general.

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@HerraBRE @humanetech @strypey whaaat. The price for the bottle is separate. You pay more and then get money back (Pfand). I couldn't care less if it kills the business (it doesn't) if they're shitting & heating the planet.

@humanetech @HerraBRE @strypey it is happening already like that here in Belgium : you buy electronic goods and you pay a "recupel" tax on it, and the retailers are compeled to take back any old things you could have to bring back ...
in practice, I really don't know how it works well or not (actually never brought back anything, but I'm not the good exemple - I kind of keep thing long and repair/hack the rest... ;) )

@HerraBRE so your priorities are
1) convenience for businesses and customers
2) livable biosphere

This is precisely why the costs that businesses are busy externalizing onto everybody else (ecosystems, the public, governments etc) need to be internalized. Because the only way to make some business people care about the problems they create, is to make those problems cost *them* money. Then solutions come thick and fast.

@HerraBRE the regulation I'm proposing would include rules for making sure businesses identify themselves on the products they manufacture, along with the identity of every handler between them and the customer. But what's important here is that once they know they have take financial responsibility for the end-of-life disposal of the waste they profit from, business will go so fast it will make your head spin.

@HerraBRE If the printer says Epson on it, it's from Epson. Which retailer you got it from and which retailer you go to doesn't matter, the responsibility isn't with them, they'll work for the manufacturer.
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