A team of consultants has analysed a range of policy measures that could be used to boost waste recycling levels in a report prepared for the UK environment ministry. Based on life-cycle analyses of six substances, Ecotec finds that recycled aluminium, steel, paper and glass all impose lower environmental burdens than their virgin equivalents. Both high- and low-density polyethylene, by contrast, cause greater impacts if they are recycled, the report says. The main reason why environmentally preferable recycled materials are underused is a failure to include the environmental costs of a material in the price paid by manufacturers and a poor public perception of the materials' performance, the study concludes. To redress the imbalance, recycled aluminium would be best promoted through subsidies, it says. Other policy options, such as imposing a tax on the virgin product would, it says, cause a shift to the use of virgin steel with little environmental benefit. For newsprint, the report suggests a mix between a tax and a voluntary agreement between manufacturers and government. Under the scheme, companies would agree to work towards a certain level of recycled material use, with lower tax levels applicable on virgin newsprint the closer to the target they actually reached.
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