Packaging association warns against environmental taxes
packaging are unnecessary and penalise companies, according to
a report released yesterday by an industry association.
The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (Europen) issued the warning against the growing trend of governments to impose what the association says are "stealth" taxes on packaging. Such moves would increase prices for processors and other packaging users at a time when material and commodity costs are reaching record levels. The Europen report claims the trend marks moves by government to fill holes in their national budgets. Europen managing director Julian Carroll urged governments to "stop hiding tax-raising measures behind environmental rhetoric". He noted that in 2004, the most recent year for which a complete set of official data is available, the overall recovery rate in the 15 original member states was 68 per cent. The overall recycling rate was 56 per cent. The figures go "well beyond" the minimum rates that the EU's Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive prescribed for 2001, he said. The directive required that recovery rates should be at 50 per cent of all packaging and the recycling rate at 20 per cent. "Moreover continued innovation by packaged goods companies has meant that while gross domestic product (GDP) and packaging tonnage in the EU-15 grew by 17 per cent between 1997 and 2004, the amount of packaging waste going to final disposal actually fell by 21 per cent in the same period, thanks to increased recycling," he said. Despite this impressive progress, national governments continue to impose packaging taxes that are causing distortions in the single market, he claimed. In a report of December 2006 the European Commission noted that "the use of taxation to drive packaging policy can potentially disrupt the internal market if the taxes are applied in a way that protects local producers". "This is not just a risk, it is already happening in a number of EU member states including Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Hungary," Carroll said. Europen said that a set of tests needs to be established to determine what criteria economic instruments must meet before they can be introduced. "When these instruments are being designed, the objectives should be clearly stated along with the specific criteria for judging their success and the methods that will be used to measure that success," the report stated. Europen now urges the Commission to produce proposals for tests, and says the idea is supported by the European Environment Agency and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.