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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Strategic CSR - Soda tax

I wasn’t going to write about New York City’s ban on soda drinks larger than 16 ounces (I try to avoid subjects that have received a lot of media attention), but the article in the url below brings a different perspective to the debate that I thought might be of interest. The author focuses on the issue of whether the ban would result in the amount of plastic used in soda drink packaging increasing, rather than decreasing:

If the super-size ban caused people to drink less soda, then perhaps the amount of waste from cups and bottles would decrease. But if people simply choose to buy more than one, then the packaging waste will increase.

All the NYC ban did was to prohibit the sale of certain sized sodas in certain situations. Consumers can still buy the same amount of soda, they will just need to buy multiple smaller servings, rather than one big serving. If they do that, they will use multiple cups/bottles, rather than one cup/bottle—hence the possible increase in plastic use.

Another reason why I liked this article is that it re-focuses the debate where it should be—what is the most efficient way to produce the desired outcome (less soda consumption)?

… a “soda tax”–a per ounce tax on beverages with added sugar. A tax like that would give people an incentive to drink less.

A tax would allow people the option to consume as much soda as they want, but they would be penalized in proportion to that amount. For people less able to afford the tax, this would discourage consumption. Other social ‘nudge’ experiments have demonstrated that small price increases can generate significant changes in behavior (e.g., Case-study: Paper vs. Plastic, p313).

But, if Mayor Bloomberg would rather focus on banning unhealthy calories (rather than making them more expensive), the Huffington Post has some helpful suggestions for which foods he might consider banning next (or, perhaps, should have banned before worrying about soda):

We certainly don't want to give them any more ideas, but these 11 foods -- most at 30-40 times the calorie count of the typical banned soda -- could very well now be on Bloomberg's radar.

Take care

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Will a NYC Ban on Large Sugary Sodas Decrease Obesity or Increase Plastic Waste?

By Beth Terry
June 19, 2012
My Plastic-free Life