Disposing of the Disposable Society, Part 3 – The Role of Government


As a follow-up on my earlier entries describing ideas for escaping the disposable packaging that puts so much of our petroleum reserves into landfills every day, I thought about how such changes might be achieved.  Must government action be involved?

It has often been observed that the reason disposable packaging makes economic sense compared with reusable packaging is that we are not paying the full cost for it.  Petroleum prices will continue to rise as the resource becomes more scarce, and, while landfill technology has progressed to make them much less leaky, we need to be thinking about solutions that can last centuries and millennia, not just a few decades.

Someone will have to pay the real cost sooner or later.   Will it eventually be necessary to force the economic situation into a more rational long term position, by making disposable packaging illegal in some way, or by imposing a tax to include long term cost in the equation?

As we head into increasingly problematic stages of the population explosion, the economic status of the average person may well not improve, making the economic argument for cheap disposable packaging stronger.  Even when people understand the long term implications, they may still not be able to easily afford to do the right thing.  Can any government force its citizens towards reusable packaging without causing them increased economic hardship, and (in democratic states) without being elected or recalled out of office?

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