Balls out of the industry before the new rates

New regulations extend the extended responsibility of producers and introduce fees to incentivize waste prevention.

The response of certain industrial sectors demonstrates a lack of will to innovate to transform the production and distribution model.

Little by little, the laws have begun to involve the business sectors in paying the costs of managing the municipal waste generated by their activity. The aim is for them to take responsibility for the products they put on the market once they become waste.

It is part of what is called extended producer responsibility (RAP) that the European Union has been asking states to apply in their territories for years. Until now, it was limited to some products in Spain. The best known are the waste of light packaging and glass. But the participation of Ecoembes and Ecovidrio in financing the collection and treatment of this waste is still insufficient.

Laws have recently appeared that deepen this line, affecting the single-use plastic, textile and tobacco sectors, among others. Several voices in the industrial sector point out that these measures will result in an increase in sales prices. At a time when inflation is punishing the pockets of citizens, there are those who take advantage of this to question the opportunity of these policies.


The industry facing the new rates: price increases in sight

In the single-use plastic sector, the general manager of a coffee caps and capsules company complained to TV3 news that they had no choice but to charge the extra cost of the new tax in their sector to their customers . The employers’ association AECOC claimed in the same report that the measure was like throwing gasoline on a fire.
In fact, several employers in the food and restaurant sector asked the Spanish Government to put a stop to the tax on single-use plastic, alluding to an alleged 2,000 million euros that they would have to assume (and in turn would impute to consumers).
Similar predictions are made for the tobacco sector which in the face of the future application of the RAP to tobacco complains that it will incur an additional cost of 170 million euros. Also threatens to burden smokers. However, the National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking congratulates itself since the price increase is a disincentive for consumption with clear positive consequences for public health.

Prices as a disincentive to consumption

It is true that for environmental justice it is positive that prices reflect the real costs of the entire life cycle of a product including those related to waste management. The resulting reduction in consumption is part of the necessary solution.
Another relevant advantage of introducing the costs of waste management and treatment into the prices is that it dissociates the figure of the consumer from the figure of the citizen. Consumers and citizens have different roles in relation to waste.
On the one hand, people conditioned by the offer, economic possibilities, available time, marketing, etc., make purchase decisions as consumers. These options result in quantities and types of waste that can vary greatly between households.
On the other hand, citizens finance part of the cost of waste management and treatment via taxes. So far, without discriminating the degree of participation in the generation.
To the extent that these costs are transferred to the prices it is achieved that it is not all citizens who pay the costs associated with waste, but that they are assumed by the part of the citizens who have contributed to generating them via prices.
If in addition to applying fees to products that generate waste local bodies introduce fair fees, that is to say that “the user of the waste collection service pays the garbage fee based on their generation of waste and their participation or use of the collection service”, the progress in this sense is twofold.


Lack of commitment to transformation

However, the fact that the response of some business sectors to the legislative measures that force them to assume their responsibility in the management of municipal waste is only to brush off the costs and pass them on to the public is disappointing. The fees should also serve as an incentive to face the environmental challenges of the sector.

Complementary measures to the repercussion of costs

One of the measures that could be derived from the tax pressure on companies would be increased investment in eco-design departments. Thus, the application of environmental criteria focused on facilitating the recovery of the raw materials contained in its products would increase. For example, in the textile sector, it would be interesting to stop including elements such as zippers and sequins in the clothing and opt for single-fabric pieces.

Another measure would be the articulation of reverse logistics models by the industry. In this way, they could recover their products once they become waste and re-introduce the raw materials they contain into the production cycle. In this sense, in the packaging and packaging sector the standardization of the types of plastics would be a help, since the current diversity makes it difficult to sort and use them later.

In the wine field an interesting measure is the standardization of glass bottles which Rezero knows in depth. It would be a way to facilitate the start-up of recovery circuits and cleaning plants and avoid the waste of resources from single-use bottles.

The tobacco sector could innovate by eliminating cigarettes and marketing reusable filters and tobacco separately

The threat of price increases to avoid responsibilities

But the reaction of some economic activities demonstrates their lack of commitment to the necessary transformation of the production and distribution model. Instead of trying to postpone the implementation of the rates and announcing that when it is done the new costs will be derived from the sales price it would be necessary to put all the resources to imagine, design and implement authentic sustainability strategies in their sectors. Because they are already late.


27 de febrer de 2023