Azara Blog: House of Lords committee concerned about business waste

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Date published: 2008/08/20

The BBC says:

The government needs to step up efforts to reduce waste from business, according to a parliamentary committee.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recommends using variable VAT rates to cut unsustainable consumption of raw materials.

Its report says pressure has so far concentrated on householders, who account for only 9% of the UK's waste.

Environment minister Joan Ruddock said the government does have measures that are inducing businesses to cut waste.

Those measures include the landfill tax escalator under which the tax on landfill will rise by £8 per tonne each year until 2011.

The committee acknowledged that this had been effective in reducing the amount of waste dumped in landfill sites, but said other initiatives were needed.

"We would like to see the VAT regime reformed so that products that have a long life-cycle, or can be easily and cheaply repaired rather than replaced, are made economically more attractive," said Lord O'Neill, who chaired the sub-committee on waste.

"This would be an important step in turning away from the 'throwaway' consumer culture we currently have."

About one-third of the UK's waste is produced by construction and demolition, and a further third by mining and quarrying.

Nevertheless, the committee says, government action and media attention have concentrated on the much smaller contribution from households.

Gee whiz, someone in power has finally noticed that the academic middle class people who run Britain have been overly hysterical about waste produced by households. But this is because the academic middle class are puritanical, and are fixated with this bogus concept that the ordinary people of Britain have a "'throwaway' consumer culture". Unfortunately O'Neill falls into this same silly trap, but presumably he means to impugn businesses, and not just people. (The BBC should ask him if he has a "'throwaway' consumer culture"? Of course not, it's the other guy who does.)

Government incentives will have an effect. But government incentives will always be arbitrary and not proportionate to the alleged environmental impact of waste. In particular, the already existing landfill tax is just completely arbitrary and has nothing to do with anything except an attempt to get Britain to meet silly EU targets on recycling.

A lot of waste that the construction industry throws away is just rubble or earth, so a lot of it is environmentally neutral inorganic material. The real environmentally bad aspect of this waste is not the landfill used but the transport involved with bringing it to the landfill.

Unfortunately the academic middle class fixation with waste is unlikely to end any time soon.

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