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Bin Tax- Some backround notes on Environmental, Taxation and EU issues
bin tax / household tax / water tax |
Friday October 10, 2003 18:11 by Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign
These are briefing notes on the bin tax and some related environmental, taxation and EU issues prepared by Joe Higgins T.D. The Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign invites activists to read this as you may find it of some use in your local anti bin tax group.
The Bin Tax
Background Notes 0n:
The Environmental Issues;
By Joe HigginsTD
Government’s Pathetic Failure on Waste Reduction and Recycling
Did you know that in 2001, out of 302,062 tons of paper disposed of from households, an incredible 279,833 tons (92.6%) went to landfill and only 22,229 tons (7.4%) went for recycling?
(Source; National Waste Database Report 2001 – Environmental Protection Agency.)
Did you know that, Repak notwithstanding, of 502,352 tons of paper disposed of by commercial outlets, 358,276 tons (71.3%) went to landfill with 144,076 tons(28.7) going for recycling?
This means that if paper recycling was made mandatory with facilities provided in all areas, at a stroke the amount of waste going to landfill from households and commercial outlets would be reduced by almost one third (32.5%).
Household Waste is waste produced within the curtailed of a building or self-contained part of a building used for the purposes of living accommodation.
Commercial Waste is waste from premises used wholly or mainly for the purposes of trade or business or for the purposes of sport, recreation, education or entertainment but does not include household, agricultural or industrial waste.
What the Environmental Protection Agency 2001 Survey shows is that we have a Government which gives lipservice to an environmentally sound waste management policy but is not serious about putting the infrastructure in place to make comprehensive recycling a reality.
Did you know that out of 77,827 tons of glass disposed of by households in 2001, 55,214 tons (70.9%) went to landfill while 22,614(29.1) went for recycling?
Did you know that out of 73,403 tons of glass disposed of in 2001 by the commercial sector, 53,078(72.3%) went to landfill with 20,325 tons (27.7%) went for recycling?
Irish Glass Bottle, the only glass recycling facility in the Republic was closed in June 2002. Now all glass for recycling has to go to Northern Ireland or abroad.
The Minister for the Environment and the Government ignored calls for a major initiative to keep and develop a national glass recycling facility by bringing together the IGB workers, the Local Authorities and Rehab Industries to work out a plan based on the basis of a publicly owned IGB.
Some other facts;
In 2001, of the total amount of plastic disposed of by households, 145,563 tons went from households to landfill ……. 99.4% of the total.
404,064 tons of organic waste went from households to landfill with only 19,846 (4.7%) recovered for composting.
Total Waste Produced Tons
Total of Non Agricultural Waste 17,384,194
(Industrial Construction, Commercial & Household)
Agricultural Waste 56,687,440
Note; Most agricultural waste does not go into landfill but is recycled on the land as fertiliser etc.
Municipal Waste(Household , Commercial & Street cleaning) (Before recycling)
Household Waste 1,468,834
Commercial waste 1,156,732
Street cleaning 78,469
Total Municipal Waste 2,704,035
Waste Going to Landfill in 2001
Waste Accepted at Landfills: Tons
Household Waste going to Landfill as a proportion of All Waste going to Landfill is 15%
As part of their propaganda campaign to have the bin tax implemented, the Minister for the Environment and others frequently attempt to make householders feel as if they are responsible for the bulk of waste production. As the figures above show, in fact, householders account for a small proportion of all waste produced and for 15% of waste going to landfill.
A favourite slogan of the Minister and of the pro bin tax lobby is ‘The Polluter Pays’ applying this to householders. This slogan should be rejected. All the evidence is that householders are waste receivers rather than polluters and would have far less materials to dispose of if commercial and retail outlets cut down on packaging and if the proper recycling infrastructure existed. Nevertheless there are significant measures which could be taken to reduce the amount of waste which householders are obliged to deal with.
How an effective waste reduction policy would work:
Reduction at Source; Outlawing unnecessary packaging would reduce a significant amount of packaging waste that households have to dispose of.
Is there any serious intent on the part of Government, when we find in supermarkets and shops widespread practices such as the use of polystyrene trays and plastic wrapping used to wrap fresh vegetables, fruit and even pastries? Or when each month, millions of cartons of Tetrapak milk or juice cartons going to landfill, as they cannot be recycled?
Investment in Recycling Infrastructure:
Sufficient investment must be made to provide a comprehensive recycling infrastructure in each area. Byelaws can then be implemented requiring that no recyclable materials go to landfill.
A comprehensive public education programme should be undertaken showing why each citizen, household and corporate or other organisation should comply with reduction at source, reuse and recycling policies.
The EU and Waste Policy in Ireland
The Government frequently uses the cover of the EU for justification of the bin tax. The EU came up with the slogan ‘The polluter pays’ and that slogan has been dealt with earlier. But it is very important to see exactly what the EU Directives are saying. It will be seen, in fact, that the Directives do not direct Governments on precisely how waste management should be paid for.
EU Directive 91/156/EEC of 18 March 1991 amending Directive 75/442/EEC on waste
1. Member States shall take appropriate measures to encourage:
(a) firstly, the prevention or reduction of waste production and its harmfulness, in particular by:………………………..the technical development and marketing of products designed so as to make no contribution or to make the smallest possible contribution, by the nature of their manufacture, use of final disposal, to increasing the amount or harmfulness of waste and pollution hazards.
In accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the cost of disposing of waste must be borne by;
- the holder who has waste handled by a waste collector …….and/or
the previous holders or the producer of the product from which the waste came
Article 14 relates to the minimisation of waste at source. Quite clearly the Government does not take this seriously.
Article 15 also outlines the possibility of charging those who put all the unnecessary packaging into the shops and supermarkets for the disposal of the waste. Naturally the Government takes the usual route of attempting to hit the ordinary householder with charges instead.
There is absolutely nothing stopping the Irish Government arguing in the EU that householders contribute fully to waste management costs through the central and indirect taxation, which they pay and which is then made available to the Local authorities for this purpose. When it is stated ‘We must pay for services’ the answer is quite simple. PAYE taxpayers and contributory pensioners have always paid for services such as water and waste management, including when the Ansbachermen and others were blatantly and illegally defrauding the taxation system.
The Bin Tax - Bad For the Environment
There is very clear evidence that rising bin taxes around the country, far from having a beneficial environmental impact, will have a very serious detrimental effect on the environment. A professionally produced survey carried out by Irish Marketing Surveys for six local authorities in the South East shows that alarming 37% of households burn their waste always or sometimes. This is highly dangerous for the environment as it means that dangerous toxic gases are going uncontrolled into the air. A senior official in one of the Councils, which commissioned the survey, said that rising bin taxes was partly responsible for the high level of burning. Unfortunately, there is also evidence that rising bin taxes will lead some people to indiscriminate dumping of waste.
The Fight Against The Bin Tax Is About Taxation Justice
Rising Bin Taxes and the reintroduction of water charges would mean a new Local Tax of up to €1,000 per household each year within a few years
It is important for campaigners to bring out the hidden agenda of Government. What they want is to have a parallel structure of local charges that would in reality be a new tier of local taxation parallel to the PAYE system. These would be imposed by the Local Authorities and would not be accountable to the Dail. The Minister of Finance and Government of the day would then be able to claim that these charges had nothing to do with them and wash their hands of them. We have seen the cynical operation of this trick already with long overdue reductions in PAYE being given in Budgets and then most or all of the value taken back by rises in local charges and stealth taxes.
The Bin Tax has already reached €400 in some local authorities. The OECD is pressing for the reintroduction of water charges, initially at a level of €200 per household. If this were done it would not be too hard to see these charges rising in a few short years to a level of €1,000 per household.
It is argued by the supporters of the Bin Tax that it is meaningless to speak about ‘double taxation’ because the level of PAYE taxation has gone down significantly over the past several years. What they conveniently ignore is that these tax reductions were not only long overdue from the 1980s but were also in compensation for many of the modest increases in wages that workers accepted, or had forced on them, through the national ‘partnership’ deals. They now want the reductions to be an excuse for new local taxes.
In fact since 1987 there has been a huge reduction in the proportion of the national wealth going to working people and a huge increase in the proportion going in profits, rents and dividends. Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that in 1987 wages and salaries of workers amounted to 59% of Gross Domestic Product while the profits and rents taken by the capitalists amounted to 41%. By2001 the proportion going to workers had fallen to 46% while profits and rents had risen to 54%. This can be readily understood by young workers attempting to purchase a house and by working people generally in their experience of price rises and rent increases across the board.
Tax Cuts for Big Business
The fight against the bin tax also highlights the unjust tax system, which hugely favours big business and the super rich such as billionaire and millionaire tax exiles.
In the Budget for 2001 the Government provided the corporate sector with tax cuts of €329 million and in 2002 a further cut of €305 million, not taking into account the cut in employers’ PRSI.
This means a provision in this year alone for the corporate sector paying €634 million less in taxation.
This would not only provide for massive investment in waste management but also allow for investment in necessary social and other services.