2022, Centre for Circular Metals
Policy for material efficiency—sustainable taxation as a departure from the throwaway society
The present economy is not sustainable with regard to its per capita material consumption. A
dematerialization of the economy of industrialized countries can be achieved by a change in course, from an industrial economy built on throughput to a circular economy built on stock optimization, decoupling wealth and welfare from resource consumption while creating more work. The business models of a circular economy have been known since the mid-1970s and are now applied in a number of industrial sectors. This paper argues that a simple and convincing lever could accelerate the shift to a circular economy, and that this lever is the shift to a tax system based on the principles of sustainability: not taxing renewable resources including human labour—work—but taxing non-renewable resources instead is a powerful lever. Taxing materials and energies will promote low-carbon and low-resource solutions and a move towards a ‘circular’ regional economy as opposed to the ‘linear’ global economy requiring fuel-based transport for goods throughput. In addition to substantial improvements in material and energy efficiency, regional job creation and national greenhouse gas emission reductions, such a change will foster all activities based on ‘caring’, such as maintaining cultural heritage and natural wealth, health services, knowledge and know-how.