Save Money, Avoid Taxes

April 1, 2004
May that time of the year when some major league baseball teams are already saying, "Waitll next year," and taxpayers are saying, "I paid how much?" Some

May — that time of the year when some major league baseball teams are already saying, "Wait’ll next year," and taxpayers are saying, "I paid how much?" Some international shippers have been saying the same things, only next year and the tax bill have finally arrived, at least in Canada.

Packaging professionals around the world are hearing the tax man’s knock on the door with greater frequency in terms of user-responsibility taxes being imposed to reduce the level of transport packaging material in the solid waste stream. Here in America, if we’re smart, we’ll learn from the experience of others.

Globalizing your business paradoxically means fragmenting the management of your packaging operations. For example, phytosanitary regulations worldwide are affecting the pallet-selection process. What works here does not work there. In the U.S., for packaging environmental legislation still to come, we need look no further than to our neighbor to the north. Eighty-five per cent of Canadian trade is with the U.S. And while the U.S. is not nearly so reliant on Canada, it remains the United States’ biggest trading partner. If your packaging material or packaged products are sold in the Province of Ontario, you had better be conversant with the Ontario Waste Diversion Act of 2002. April 20th the first tax payments were due. Don’t say I didn’t give you an early warning. I’ve written about this bill a couple of times in the past two years. Now it’s finally time to pay up, pick up or pack up.

Legislation such as the Waste Diversion Act is certainly well-meaning, however self-defeating it might be as a revenue generator. The point of the legislation seems to be to make disposal of packaging material financially painful to the point that the generator of the waste does something — preferably not go out of business. However, when there’s less material going to the landfill, the government generates less money through taxes.

We’ve not talked about solid waste for a while. How serious is this problem here in the U.S.? In the latest figures I could find from the Environmental Protection Agency, using data through 2001, we seem to be getting a bit better at recycling and not generating waste material. The trash pile is 1.2 percent shorter while our recovery of material for recycling stands at 29.7 percent. This is progress. Since the last century, during the Age of Sin when many of us still ate carbohydrates, we recycled only 6.4 percent.

When it comes time to point fingers, legislate and generate revenue, transport packaging is the politico’s best target because it’s visible. While nearly 45 percent of corrugated boxes are recovered for recycling, they still make up almost 36 percent of the municipal waste stream.

What about the bad-boy-poster-child of the landfill — the wood pallet? Getting firm numbers on pallet recycling is like trying to nail Jell-o to a wall. The answer is always, "Well, that depends." Best estimates are that "as a percentage of total wood landfilled," pallets still account for about 20 percent. However, wood represents only about 1.5 percent of the total waste in the landfill. And the encouraging information in these numbers is that the number of pallets being recovered at landfills, and elsewhere, to be reused in some form is on the increase.

So, how do you beat the tax man and save money? Here are some real-world examples:

o Pepsi-Cola saved $44 million by switching from corrugated to reusable plastic shipping containers for one liter and 20-ounce bottles. It conserved 196 million pounds of corrugated material.

o Dow Corning saved $530,000 in one year by repairing and reusing 1.7 million pounds of wood pallets. o AMP Inc., an electronics manufacturer, established a returnable tote program for shipping

and saved $450,000 and conserved 478,000 pounds of corrugated material in one year.

o HASBRO Inc. reduced the thickness of corrugated shipping containers by 15 percent and in one year saved $400,000 and conserved more than 763,000 pounds of material.

Same old mess-age: reduce, recycle, reuse and make politicians find some other way to squeeze more water from the stone.

Clyde E. Witt, executive editor, [email protected]

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