Wednesday, September 20, 2006

UK, Electronics Manufacturers, Debate Where to Charge Recycling Fee

This one might have passed right by me if I didn't still have Al Gore's speech on my mind. Household small appliance manufacturers are asking Great Britain to charge for EU-mandated product recycling through a sales tax rather than requiring companies like Bosch, Sony and Philips to add it to the price of their products:

The firms warned the government that if it refuses to back the plan, headline prices on their products could rise by as much as £600 million a year to foot the cost of recycling.

A green levy on electrical goods has already been imposed in several EU states, including Ireland and the Netherlands.

Industry leaders admitted yesterday that the new recycling tax 'may mean a little pain' for consumers. However, they claim families are ready to pay for efforts to remove toxic chemicals and recover metal to be re-used in new products.

Is it just me, or is this a prime example of these companies trying to avoid internalizing the costs associated with recycling their products? After all, consumers will pick up the tab regardless of where it's charged, but if manufacturers have to pay for the recycling, then that requires raising the sticker prices of their products. These products will now reflect at least one environmental cost created by the products. I'm guessing, though, that a higher retail price tag makes consumers think a bit harder about their purchase... how many of us don't buy something because of sales taxes...?

Let's hope the British government sticks to their guns on this one, and forces these manufacturers to let their prices reflect real costs. That would be the only way to motivate the companies to incorporate recyclability into the product designs, and bring down the costs. Or, they could consider product service systems for these products -- we don't necessarily want toasters -- we want toast! If the government gives in, though, we're back to business as usual...

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