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France tax plan targets disposables

Mon., Sept. 15, 2008

PARIS – Plastic forks, disposable diapers, drafty houses – if it hurts the environment, make it cost more. That’s the message France’s government wants to send with a raft of proposed new taxes.

France’s ecology minister said Sunday the government is considering a “picnic tax” on disposable dishes to encourage people to choose reusable plates and cups.

Speaking on Europe-1 radio, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the plan wouldn’t stop at picnicware. For example, she said, “We could make it so that in all public maternity wards, you would be taught to use washable diapers.”

She said a new carrot-and-stick plan already applied to cars is being spread to other environmentally damaging products such as paints and detergents.

The plan offers a bonus of up to $7,000 to buyers of fuel-efficient cars, but as of next year it will slap extra fees of up to a few thousand euros on the cost of heavy polluters like SUVs.

The idea is meant to change the habits of both consumers and manufacturers by getting people to calculate the environmental cost of their waste, though some critics – even within the Finance Ministry – fear it could crimp growth.

The financial details of the taxes have yet to be worked out. Some will be introduced in the 2009 budget, which the government will present at the end of the month.


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