Recycle and repair to pay less tax
In Sweden, the war on waste has reached new proportions. The government now plans to roll out tax benefits for anyone who opts to repair an item rather than throw it away. Will this new tax incentive spark a wave of reuse and recycle centers across Europe?
In the country that gave us furniture sold in kits, repairing and recycling is all the rage. Arguably the most eco-friendly country in the world, Sweden is aiming to reduce its waste even further by encouraging citizens to repair rather than discard. And it has found an easy way to do it: by drastically reducing the VAT on all repair-related activities. That’s enough to cut the cost of refurbishment in half.
Bikes, computers, appliances and clothes may see their shelf lives extended as a result. And the government is going one step further, by considering tax incentives for anyone opting to refurbish their oven or refrigerator. It’s an efficient way to fight against overconsumption and the rapid obsolescence of our precious items. It’s also an excellent way to reduce waste—one of the great ecological challenges of our time.
Top of the class
When it comes to ecology, Sweden is the front-runner. The country reduced CO2 emissions by 23% since the 1990s, produces green energy en masse (half the country’s energy consumption by 2020), and recycles 99% of household waste. The nation even imports waste from other countries such as the United Kingdom to burn in incineration plants, generating a portion of its electricity.
Swedes have adopted eco-responsibility as both a political project and a way of life. Stockholm even plans to achieve negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, becoming Europe’s green lung. Other European countries have heaped unanimous praise on the advances made by their northern neighbor. They should soon be following in the same footsteps
Ending disposable culture
Sweden’s plan to incentivize repairing items signals the start of a global fight against planned obsolescence. France has already made it a crime, with offenders facing two years of prison and a 300,000 euro fine. But the legislation remains difficult to enforce. Does a breakdown caused by a broken part in a washing machine constitute a case of planned obsolescence, or just an ordinary case of wear and tear? Where is the line when a manufacturer knows that components have a limited lifespan, without necessarily “programming” the breakdown with a chip?
The fight against obsolescence is part of an effort to encourage the circular economy and recycling of old objects—and electronic devices in particular. People are flocking to reuse and recycle centers, and in a big way.
What direction will tomorrow’s consumers take? Consume less? Change nothing? It’s hard to say. But more and more, legislators will have their two cents concerning the contents of your trashcan. What does the future hold? An individual tax based on the weight of waste produced? A subsidized buyback scheme for household waste? VAT exemptions for repair services across Europe? If so, hold on to those vintage irons and PCs from the 2000s—soon they could be worth a hefty tax deduction.