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June 30th, 2009
Towards a recycling society
According to the Commission, decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth will require both technological progress and the use of financial instruments.
A number of stakeholders are also calling for financial incentives to encourage and promote recycling. Such incentives include either raising taxes or making citizens and businesses pay the exact price for recycling different materials. This can be done by fixing specific prices for rubbish bags: bags containing recycled material would be cheaper than bags where all rubbish is mixed. As for businesses, some NGOS are calling for the mandatory principle of 100% financial responsibility of the producer to be introduced.
The concept of 'Individual Producer Responsibility' is the subject of much controversy. Parts of the strategy seek to reduce the total environmental impact of a product by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for its entire lifecycle, and especially for its take-back, recycling and final disposal.
Requiring authorities to consider the recyclability of products like paper or electrical equipment in their procurement are also part of the solution. Differentiated VAT could be applied for example and virgin paper could be imposed a higher VAT than recycled one.
In parallel to financial incentives, science and R&D also have a part to play. They can help move towards more efficient recovery and reuse of materials and prevent waste from being created in the first place. Nanotechnology, for example, has the potential to be used for waste-water treatment.
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