Ephemeral value and everlasting rubbish

It’s been quite a week and as a reward I read a book I picked up a while ago, [amazon_link id=”0954221745″ target=”_blank” ]Findings[/amazon_link] by the poet Kathleen Jamie – another in the revived genre of nature writing, I suppose, along with books like [amazon_link id=”0099575450″ target=”_blank” ]H is for Hawk[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0701176016″ target=”_blank” ]Nature Cure.[/amazon_link] Not surprisingly for a poet, this book evokes amazingly sharply the places and times she visits – mainly the Scottish Highlands and islands, but Edinburgh too, and the way they feel in specific lights and weathers. I really enjoyed the book.

[amazon_image id=”0954221745″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Findings[/amazon_image]

One passage set me thinking about value. On a remote island she wanders the beach looking at the washed up debris: “The islands are a 21st century midden of aerosols and plastic bottles, and I was thinking of what we’d valued enough to keep.” The party had collected a quartz pebble worn by the sea into an orb, a bleached whalebone. The things nobody valued, the plastic rubbish, thrown away and never gathered by beachcombers are, alas, indestructible.

There is a book whose title I’ve forgotten about a lost cargo of yellow plastic ducks carried half way around the world by ocean currents when their container fell overboard. There’s plenty of plastic in my life but I’m becoming increasingly disturbed by it. And why is it so cheap? Never mind a carbon tax, how about a plastic tax?

7 thoughts on “Ephemeral value and everlasting rubbish

  1. Pingback: Ephemeral value and everlasting rubbish | Homines Economici

  2. Whilst the environment is important to everyone on this earth, is it justified to begin taxing all things that may have a negative affect on the environment? The carbon tax, as mentioned, doesn’t ever work. The EU tried and failed to bring in a carbon tax in the early 1990s. The stigma around having another tax is a major reason for the carbon tax’s unpopularity. A much better system proposed is the cap and trade system which establishes a quantifiable, legally enforceable limit on emissions which will ensure that essential climate change targets are met at the lowest possible cost. Emissions trading has been applied to the problem of sulfur emissions from power stations in the US. The overall cost of meeting environmental targets has been much lower than previously anticipated. Achievement of the required SO2 emission reductions in the Acid Rain Program are now projected to cost $1 to $2 billion per year, just one quarter of original EPA estimates. The introduction of a cap and trade would be far more useful than that of a carbon or plastic tax.

    • I agree with Jacob that the main aim is to reduce emissions. The issue therefore is how to best reduce plastic. the balance of argument is fine between tax and tradable permits. The practical aspect of capping plastic bottles is difficult to overcome. The cap and trade of carbon has been fraught with practical difficulty. In many ways I believe tax is a simpler method and more transparent.

  3. As the issues raised in this post become more and more apparent and troubling, the idea of a tax on plastics and carbon emissions becomes increasingly attractive. The reduction in waste by raising the prices is a simple concept which will most likely work, it is in peoples nature to adapt to rising prices. Why would anyone optional pay more for a plastic bag for example? Ireland introduced a levy of 15 cents (13p) on plastic bags in 2002, rising to 22 cents (18p) in 2007. The proceeds from the levy go to the Irish government and are put into an Environment Fund. It has been estimated that usage of plastic bags in Ireland has fallen by over 90% since the introduction of the levy. A reduction of 90% is a huge amount and all from the idea of a rise in prices. Although the concept of a plastic tax could be seen a a complex one, it can be implemented in the simplest of ways and as one can see it can make a significant difference.

  4. Good point well made. The normal argument against this is that it will reduce competitiveness internationally ( with carbon tax) and lead to creeping protectionism. The issue with a tax which is levied at the point of delivery is far easier to contemplate as the bottles will not be bought elsewhere and traded except over borders. it would be interesting to see what happened with supermarkets in the Eire / Northern Irish border.

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