A Tax on Plastic Untensils? How Would You React?

plastic utensils, paper plateStarting next year, France will institute a “taxe pique-nique,” a tax onΒ  plastic cups, knives and forks, and non-biodegradable paper plates and napkins. The goal, of course, is to discourage institutions and individuals from buying these one time use products that are harmful to the environment.

According to the Telegraph

A tax of 90 cents (71p) per kilogram (2.2 lbs) will be placed on plastic and paper throwaway cups from next year, aimed at cutting the average 360kg (793 lbs) of rubbish generated per person per year in France.

This conceptΒ  of imposing a tax, or a levy as the French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo calls it, on environmentally unfriendly products is not new in France. They already have what is known as “bonus-malus” system which places higher taxes on high polluting vehiclesΒ  and gives tax breaks for environmentally friendly cars.

Some in France see this as an attack on the people who are already struggling in a difficult economy. Others see it as a necessity. One mother who was picnicking with her family using durable plates and utensils is quoted as saying,

“We’ll have to start cutting back on disposable stuff, otherwise we’ll never get out of this mess.”

I think she’s right. When I first started making changes in my house a couple of years ago, one of the first things I did was stop buying paper plates and napkins. I bought inexpensive cloth napkins that get washed with the towels. It was a completely painless change for our family. I’ve since bought extra stainless steel flatware at a yard sale so that when we have a lot of people over, I don’t need to use plastic utensils. It actually saves us money.

A tax like this might force people to do the same thing I did. It might force schools to switch from plastic utensils to durable ones. It might encourage cafeterias in large business complexes to do the same. Or it might not.

But it might. Look at what happened in Ireland when a tax was placed on plastic bags in 2002. Within five months plastic bag usage was cut by 90%. I was in Ireland this past summer. Not a plastic bag in sight.

I’m not a big fan of taxes. Who is? I would prefer that people make these types of changes voluntarily like my family did instead of the government stepping in and forcing their hand. But there are many people who will not make changes until it puts a dent in their wallet. The thing about a tax like this is that it doesn’t have to put a dent in anyone’s wallet. There might need to be a small investment in durable items, but after that the change will save money.

So, how would you react if an additional tax was placed on plastic cups, knives and forks, and non-biodegradable paper plates and napkins? Would you suck it up and make the switch, pitch a fit at yet another tax, or just fork over the money and keep using your plastic forks?

Image courtesy of Flickr

Read more

Eco-Effective Decisions: May I Have a Side of Food With my Plastic?

Eco-To-Go: New Take-Out Food Campaign Seeks to Reduce Waste

Tip O’ the Day: Picnic in Style

  1. Chris Milton

    About time too, IMHO.

    Everyone worries about the rising cost of oil = rising cost of petrol. No one seems to have made the connection oil also = plastic.

    The other day, I heard a respected professor say there was no reason to think that we had to consider alternatives for plastics, although in the sam ebreath he called for alternatives to petrol. Oh come on!

    So the French lead the way. As always. (sigh) As ever in the EU πŸ™‚

  2. GoneGreen

    It’s about time our “throwaway society” started facing up to its responsibilities, and if it takes a little coercion then so be it; allowing people the freedom to make changes in their own time and at their pace has been slow so far, so this is just what’s needed, even if it is just in France for now.

    I hope the businesses that lose out from the potential drop in disposable stuff turn their focus toward more sustainable products as a result of this new direction.

  3. Robin Shreeves

    Interesting – I thought there might be some people complaining about the tax. But everyone seems okay with the concept.

    Hmmm. I wonder what the comments would be like if it were actually happening here in the U.S.

  4. Debi

    I think if it happens in the US some people will complain, but so what, why do we have to force people to do whats right? I don’t think its fair to the people who actually try to make an effort, our efforts are wasted when we have so much to be up against. I like the Idea, maybe then my “friends” will stop teasing me about my “Green Ways” or the fact that I bring my own plates and cups to BBQ’s and picnics. πŸ™‚

  5. Robin Shreeves

    Debi – Don’t think your efforts are being wasted. Because when you add your efforts to my efforts and the small efforts of everyone else, it adds up to a big difference.

    Sure we need more people to make changes, but I’m a firm believer in a “lifestyle evangelism” approach to preaching to your friends. Let them see the changes and talk about them when they ask first.

    Don’t give up. It makes a difference.

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