On Thursday Mr President wrote about the bin tax and how it demonstrated an increasing problem with politics today. Governments seem to only have two words in their vocabulary; tax and ban. If they don’t ban something they’ll tax it into oblivion, and whilst he certainly thinks taxation is more appropriate in a democratic society than bans, he thinks they’re “using a machete where a scalpel would be better suited.”
Surprisingly the post didn’t generate a lot of interest, with only one comment, yet fortunately enough the comment was a very good one. So thank you Stella. When writing a follow-up to the comment, Mr President wrote such a great deal that he thought he might expand it into a post of its own. Maybe this time you lot will comment!
Many of the issues Stella raised in that comment are incredibly valid, and actually Mr President has never denied that the issue of waste is important. He actually supports replacing plastic carrier bars for shopping with paper ones, which can be recycled, and even if they aren’t will decompose a lot quicker than plastic. They also pose no danger to wildlife. Yet what about what’s actually in the bags? There’s waste there too.
Stella raised the points about both packaging and produce and here there really is a rather large issue, in particular produce. There was a report issued the other day that showed that the average British family throws away £600 of perfectly edible (not passed the use by date) unopened food every year. That’s not just a waste of food, it’s a waste of the packaging, and comes to a national total of £10 billion of waste.
Mr President was raised not to waste food because of all the people starving in the world, but it seems that ever since the TV stopped showing so many campaigns for people starving in Africa and other parts of the world, we’ve forgotten that they still exist and that we mustn’t waste food. People need to do what he does; plan their meals when they shop and buy just what they can eat and no more. Of course people are working longer and longer hours these days which is encouraging bad habits.
Where he takes umbrage with Stella’s arguments is where she talks about rising oil prices and suggests using less plastic will lower the price of petrol. In theory using less plastic would decrease the price of petrol, but the price of petrol is no longer driven by supply and demand. Mr President trades oil futures and will tell you that if oil was purely driven by supply and demand it would be no more than $70 a barrel.
The current premium is driven primarily by fears over shortages in the event of terrorist activities, which only further justifies the use of draconian measures. That was really the point being discussed in that other post. The complaint wasn’t that the issue of waste doesn’t need addressing, but with the measures used. When talking about smoking and the lack of a 1:1 correlation his point wasn’t that we need one to do anything.
Scientific research will rarely prove a 1:1 correlation, but he argues that only when we have one can we, in a free society, justify using draconian measures. Anything less requires a level of subtlety and nuance that politicians seem to have forgotten in their zeal to get easy votes. Hence the point about machetes instead of scalpels.
Taking it back, then, to the issue of waste, what is required isn’t a bin tax, or even banning the use of plastic bags, but rather more sophisticated measures. For example tax breaks for companies that use paper bags instead of plastic. Better regulation of packaging is necessary and we need to better educate people as to how to minimise food wastage. Even if the oil price rise wasn’t caused by allowing Opec to dictate inflated prices, food prices are also on the rise, so wasting food is unacceptable.
What a shame, then, that governments still only know two words; tax and ban.