I've got a solution to the recycling problem. Pass a law that says that every company has to accept back any products they provide, when they reach end-of-life. So, for example, retailers would have to accept packaging waste back from customers, and the wholesaler that sold them the product would have to accept it back from them. Internalizing the cost of dealing with waste would motivate companies to make less disposable stuff, and find ways to make it easier to recycle:

@strypey Looking around my office...

I have literally no idea where most of these things came from.

As a business, I'm not taking back your waste unless you show a receipt. Why should I?

Like so many other failed recycling schemes, this one fails at usability, dumping a shit ton of extra cognitive load on the average joe. Even people who care will be hard pressed to get it right - and most people won't care.


If there was some extra deposit money being charged (which goes to a government fund, not to the vendor), similar to how this works for beer and cola bottles, then people would be incentivized to save the receipts and bring the products back to a collection point for recycling, getting their money back.


@humanetech @strypey It's still way overcomplicated.

The only reason people like this sort of scheme, is because they want to punish businesses.

But I agree that paying people for garbage is the only way this gets fixed. Any plan suggesting otherwise is basically a plan suggesting everyone who is struggling to get by, suddenly start to care more about rubbish than they care about their own survival. Not gonna happen.


Don't know if it is overcomplicated, or just more complicated. Regulation and processing infrastructure is needed.

If you want to raise awareness on sustainability (quality, durability, repairability, recycling/upcycling, etc.) you could differentiate deposit amount paid and refunded. You could fund this from the system itself and create jobs in the process.

But limits competitiveness, and is actively lobbied against. Should be widely adopted to work. #capitalism sigh ๐Ÿ˜ฉ


@humanetech @strypey I meant the original post, putting the burden of collection on the retailers, is overcomplicated.

Rereading, I have nothing against a scheme where collection points hand out money in exchange for well sorted rubbish. That has been proven to work, just needs funding.

Funding from the system itself ultimately means the consumer pays. So you make food for poor people more expensive if you're not very careful.

This sort of thing should mostly come from normal taxes.

@HerraBRE guess who disproportionately pays normal taxes? Poor people, especially in countries like Aotearoa (NZ) that have #GST (Goods and Service Tax), and don't have fair taxes on wealth and business, capital gains, inheritance etc. What funding waste management from normal taxes *doesn't* do is allow customers to get their food cheaper by buying it from companies with more eco-friendly packaging, sending a cumulative market signal to the companies that don't.

@strypey @humanetech If the poor are disproportionally paying, that's not what I'd call normal taxes. To clarify, I meant income tax and capital gains, which are proportional to income and this share the burdens more fairly. Smaller tax incentives may indeed help nudge the market in more environmentally friendly directions, but the poor will foot the bill, so be careful.

@HerraBRE what kind of tax regime is "normal" depends totally on where you live ;) Outside of a few Scandinavian countries, I believe the #NeoLiberal tax regime I describe is currently "normal taxes" in most places. I'd love to learn that I'm wrong about that, because it sucks.

> the poor will foot the bill

How? They can just keep buying the cheapest products available, but their custom will mostly shift to companies with eco-friendly packaging, durable, repairable products etc.


@strypey You just complained about sales taxes and how they hurt the poor and spare the rich, which is exactly right.

How can you then fail to see that adding the cost of waste management to the products themselves is the exact same thing, with the same dynamics?

This is fuzzy wishful thinking, advocating this is quite literally doing the neoliberals' work for them. Which given your tone, seems like something you'd prefer to avoid?

@strypey But just to clarify my position on this - I do think it would be useful to use some form of incentive so eco-friendly products have a competitive advantage. We should do that.

But I believe there are better ways to achieve that and fund this sort of thing.

You're proposing very radical changes to how retail works, why not also be radical about mostly funding it using a sane progressive tax scheme?

@HerraBRE I totally support a move (back) to a progressive tax system. I've been fighting a rearguard action against the 1980s neoliberal coup for most of my life. But this is orthogonal to what I'm proposing, because as I've said, I don't think the public should be paying to deal with waste problems that profit-making businesses create. Business should pay those costs, and if they pass those costs onto customers, good! That just gives eco-friendly businesses a leg up that they desperately need.

@strypey Fair enough. That's pretty much what I figured was driving you.

I fundamentally disagree with the whole us vs. them attitude lefties have towards businesses.

I don't see how businesses paying results in anything BUT the buck getting passed to the people, either in the form of lower pay, less jobs or more expensive products. And the "bad" businesses who deserve to be "punished" are the ones who pass the buck most effectively.

We're just going to have to agree to disagree here. ๐Ÿ™‚

@HerraBRE @strypey I think that there is a lot that can be done to right the situation before we even get to complicated regulation or taxation regimes to "de-externalize" the costs avoided by mass manufacturing (like NZ, Canada has a regressive, complex GST so complexity isn't always a barrier to implementing something).

We already have very elaborate carbon emissions reporting and a "price on carbon" (the numbers of which are just estimates anyways but we still do it)...

@HerraBRE @strypey ...we already track production and sales of electronics and other manufactured goods more closely than carbon emissions, and it wouldn't be any more complicated to track who made what was returned for recycling.

We don't have to force manufacturers to accept obsolete and broken goods back directly but we CAN qualify a "price on disposal" just as we have a "price on carbon" which would make planned obsolescence less economically viable for them...

> would make planned obsolescence less economically viable for them...

Yes, this is the goal. I'm totally open to suggestions about the most politically realistic ways of getting there, which will likely vary from country to country. We're just spitballing here ;)

@strypey @HerraBRE I just find the discussion interesting. I look at certain things holistically and try to keep ideological bias to a minimum. Conventional means of taxing business seem to encourage investment but are largely decoupled from the actual impact/costs to society.

TBH I would be fine if businesses paid zero income tax as long as they paid the true and full costs associated with their business activities (everything from inputs to proper wages to waste disposal costs).

@msh are you familiar with Modern Monetary Theory? According to #MMT, the main purpose of collecting normal taxes is *not* to pay for government spending. On the contrary, government spending puts money into the economy, and taxation takes it out again. So running a deficit allows the (internal) economy to grow, and running a surplus forces it to shrink. This makes sense within an isolated national economy, but I'm still trying to nut out how it relates to a networked global economy.

@strypey @msh

My understanding is, but I have no references and am very open to correction, in an open global economy:

1) It basically only works entirely like that if you're the country issuing the the world currency reserve currency.

2) If you're powerful and credible enough to issue your loans in your own currency, it works a bit like that, but people will be more wary of you running too big a pile of sovereign debt compared to your turnover.

3) If you can't even issue your debt in your own currency, you're just a normal business with an unusual business model.

Hong Kong is special, as it has its own currency, but it has no central bank and it doesn't use sovereign debt to create currency or finance operations. The only HKD that exist are those issued by the Monetary Authority (HKMA) in exchange for USD, those issued by the private banks, as loans and as 20-to-1000-dollar bills, and those issued by the HKMA as coins and 10-dollar bills.

The government does borrow money, but not as an economic instrument, only to finance specific projects, and the level of debt is nil compared to most countries.

Sovereignty in a globalized economy 

> If you can't even issue your debt in your own currency, you're just a normal business with an unusual business model.

This is definitely true for local government in #NZ(city, district, and regional councils). If it's true for central governments, it has disturbing implications for human-scale government, and democracy in general.

@strypey Those governments that can't usually messed up when they could, so I'm not sure if it means anything important.

The USA is the only country that can maintain a negative trade balance forever (?) and have others finance their wars. With that in mind, each country providing the resources for their own growth doesn't sound so bad.

@clacke there was a political party in #NZ in the 1980s called #SocialCredit (I know some former members), whose policy was to have 2 currencies, an internationally traded one for buying anything (including imported stuff), and a government issued one that could only be used to buy local services and domestically produced stuff, and pay taxes. There was a #NZGreens candidate who proposed a similar local currency for a city to have a local currency.


@strypey @clacke The province where I live in Canada (Alberta) was governed by a Social Credit party for many years. During their first term in office there leader, premier William Aberhart, attempted to issue such a secondary currency at the provincial level through the creation of the Alberta Treasury Branch and issuance of "prosperity certificates". Alberta is the only jurisdiction in the world that actually attempted social credit for real at any meaningful scale...

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@strypey @clacke ...the experiment did not go well. The province couldn't or wouldn't redeem prosperity certificates as promised and the Canadian supreme Court ultimately ruled that PCs were currency and only the federal gov't could issue currency and regulate banking.

Over the years most social credit practises were abandoned or struck down by courts. The Alberta Treasury Branch still exists but is basically just a government owned credit union style bank now...

@strypey @clacke ...it's hard to know if it failed on its own merits or because of external interference from the federal government to deliberately prevent it.

I kind of see where the theory was going - - kind of an economic version of the thermodynamics conservation of energy law. That said, as it is proposed by most advocates it sounds like an economic "perpetual motion machine", and the Alberta government certainly didn't account for friction or external forces lol.

@msh in that case it's pretty easy to know; it was killed on purpose by the central government. The monopoly on issuing currency is almost as important to the essence of the state as the monopoly on the use of force, and as important as the power to tax. In every country, states have sabotaged or outright banned local currencies, to enforce this power. #DougRushkoff goes into that history in his book #LifeInc.

> it sounds like an economic "perpetual motion machine"

This idea rests on the #NeoClassical assumption that economic energy pours into a country's economy from the outside. But that's only true to the degree that the country imports stuff from outside. #FreeTrade Suppression Treaties (PR name "free trade agreements") often have clauses preventing #ImportSubstitution to force countries to import more stuff, whether they need it or not, and thereby, force them to export more.

@msh in reality, most countries have heaps of economic energy that their fiat currencies are too scarce to utilize (or at least can't account for), eg the labour of the under/unemployed, waste that could be recycled/ reclaimed, renewable energy sources, and so on. The idea of local currencies is that they can mine this economic energy, increasing internal wealth, without increasing imports and creating #BalanceOfPayments issues.

@strypey Isn't that also the idea of private debt? The difference is who makes the judgement whether that latent energy is there, and extractable, or not.

@clacke private debt implies usury, which implies that there is extra value to be extracted as a "return on investment". Enough to make it worth the risk of defaults. With a lot of latent economic energy, the returns are not high enough, or the scale not big enough, or the timeframe for result not short enough, to interest the lenders who are sitting on all the gold on behalf of the 1%. Besides, as #DougRushkoff explains in #ThrowingRocks... this just reinforces the financialization of power.

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