France considers a 'picnic tax' on disposables

/ Source: The Associated Press

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 use reusable plates and cups instead.

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 "bonus-malus" plan offers a bonus of up to $7,000 to buyers of fuel-efficient cars. As of next year it will slap extra fees of up to a few thousand euros on the cost of heavily polluting cars such as sport utility vehicles.

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

Kosciusko-Morizet said the plan could be spread to around 20 other types of products, including household appliances. She said the tax would be determined based on the "recyclability" of the product, among other things.

And she said it could even be extended to homes, based on how energy-efficient they are.

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.