Denmark to Tax Packaging Based on Eco-Impact

Wesley Roe and Marjorie Lakin Erickson lakinroe at
Tue Aug 22 08:31:30 PDT 2000

                          Denmark to Tax Packaging Based on

                           COPENHAGEN, Denmark, August 21, 2000 (ENS) - In 
what it claims
                           to be a world first, the Danish environmental 
protection agency (EPA)
                           has proposed differentiating existing taxes on 
packaging materials by
                           their environmental impacts.

                           Based on a new life cycle assessment, the agency 
said on Tuesday
                           that relatively low taxes should apply to paper, 
cardboard and glass,
                           and much higher ones to aluminium, expanded 
polystyrene and
                           polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

                           The life cycle assessment and associated 
political interpretation of its
                           results have been prepared in advance of an 
expected government
                           proposal to revise Denmark's current packaging 
tax system. This is
                           likely to emerge before the end of the year, 
with the EPA's proposal
                           now out to receive public comments until 
September 12.

                                                             Introduced in 
January 1999,
                                                             the current 
system is weight
                                                             based. Tax 
rates per
                                                             kilogram vary 
                                                             materials, but 
in such a way
                                                             that the rate 
for all
averages about
(US$.04) per litre of
                                                             goods delivered.

                                                             Packaging used 
in 17
                           product groups is covered, ranging from wine and 
vinegar, to edible
                           oils, food sauces, milk, margarine, dog and cat 
foods, lubricants,
                           pesticides, and paints.

                           Neither the existing system nor the new proposal 
affects the existing
                           volume based tax system for carbonated drinks.

                           The Danish government has indicated that it 
wants to differentiate
                           packaging taxes depending on environmental 
impacts but has yet to
                           endorse the EPA's plan.

                           The agency stresses that its proposal would 
continue to favor lower
                           overall use of packaging, but would also supply 
incentives to use
                           greener alternative packaging materials where 

                           The main surprise to have come out of the new 
life cycle assessment
                           was how badly aluminium scored, a spokesperson 
said. Aluminum is at
                           the top of the new tax list while glass, paper 
and wood packaging
                           would be taxed the least.

                           Meanwhile in Berlin, the German environment 
agency is urging
                           consumers to buy drinks in refillable 
polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
                           plastic packaging and to boycott metal cans and 
one way glass
                           bottles after a life cycle assessment published 
last week concluded
                           that refillable PET bottles are the best 
environmental option, followed
                           by cartons and refillable glass, all of which 
are preferable to metal
                           cans and one way glass bottles.

                           Bales of plastic drink
                           containers ready for

                           The analysis was
                           carried out, in
                           accordance with the
                           international standard
                           14040, by an
                           economics institute, an
                           environment institute
                           and a packaging market
                           research organisation.
                           All containers with a
                           market share of at
                           least five percent in
                           1996 were included.
                           One way PET, which has gained a market share of 
over five percent
                           since 1996, is a notable absentee.

                           The analysis concludes that existing PET 
refillable systems are best
                           and metal cans and one way glass worst, all 
evaluated by their
                           resource use and contribution to global warming 
and acidification.

                           The study also finds that refillable glass is 
not better than cartons for
                           drinks, due to the high level of carton recycling.

                           Finally, the agency says that distribution plays 
a large part in the life
                           cycle assessment and recommends that consumers 
buy locally.

                           Responding to the study, Environment Minister 
Jürgen Trittin
                           repeated his threat of two months ago, that a 
mandatory deposit
                           could be put on "ecologically disadvantageous 
one way glass bottles
                           and drinks cans as early as next year." He 
suggested that cartons
                           could be included in a revised quota for 
ecologically advantageous

                           Germany's 1991 packaging ordinance, revised in 
1998, requires hefty
                           deposits on one way drinks containers if the 
proportion of refillable
                           drinks containers falls below 72 percent for two 
recorded years. This
                           happened in 1997, and official figures for 1999 
to be published later
                           this year are set to confirm a second breach.

                                          {Published in cooperation with 
ENDS Environment
                                          Daily, Europe's choice for 
environmental news.
                                          Environmental Data Services Ltd, 
London. Email:
                                          envdaily at

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