Starting next year, France will institute a “taxe pique-nique,” a tax on 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 concept 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 vehicles 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?
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