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Europen slams “stealth taxes” on packaging

Europen, the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment, has warned against the “growing trend for governments to impose stealth taxes on packaging”.

The Brussels-based lobbying organisation says many such taxes are “designed to fill holes in national budgets” and urges governments to “stop hiding tax-raising measures behind environmental rhetoric”.

In a new publication, “Economic Instruments in Packaging and Packaging Waste Policy”, Europen claims the packaging and packaged goods industry has “done everything the legislators have asked of it and is now doing more”. “In 2004, the most recent year for which complete data is available, the overall recovery rate in the 15 ‘old’ Member States was 68% and the overall recycling rate was 56%,” says md Julian Carroll. “These figures go well beyond the minimum rates which the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive prescribed for 2001 (50% and 20% respectively) and already exceeded the 2008 targets set for the 12 front-runners (60% and 55%). Moreover continued innovation by packaged goods companies has meant that, while GDP and packaging tonnage in the EU-15 grew by 17% between 1997 and 2004, the amount of packaging waste going to final disposal actually fell by 21%, thanks to increased recycling.”

Despite this “impressive progress” Europen says governments “continue to impose packaging taxes that are causing distortions in the single market”. Carroll says: “Imposition of taxes in a way that unfairly affects local prices is already happening in several EU member states, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Hungary.”

Europen believes that, with national packaging taxes “distorting the single market”, tests need to be established for economic instruments to meet before they are imposed. Its new 52-page publication suggests some “appropriate criteria”, and urges the European Commission to produce proposals for tests, a step the European Environment Agency and the OECD both reportedly support.

For a copy of “Economic Instruments in Packaging and Packaging Waste Policy” contact European: T: +32 (0) 2736 3600, or visit