In the linear industrial economy, the liability for end-of-service-life objects and materials (‘waste’) is with the last owner, for consumer goods – toys – often municipalities. The circular industrial economy striving for an economy without waste, defines waste as ‘objects without positive value or ultimate liable owner’. A change in policy – introducing an Extended Producer Liability which includes objects at the end of their service-life – would create an individual rather than collective accountability for waste.
An extended service-life of objects corresponds to a substitution of local labour for energy and materials consumption in production. Not taxing labour will make service-life extension activities – and all activities involving caring – more affordable. Policymakers can foster the circular industrial economy through changes in taxation, such as not taxing renewable resources including human labour, and by not levying VAT on activities maintaining value.
Existing policies need to be adapted to changes in the real world: the emergence of long-life technologies calls for equally long tax depreciation periods; efforts to halt global climate change call for rewarding the prevention of CO2 emissions through the circular economy; the introduction of new absolute decoupling indicators enables defining policies based on increasing societal wealth and well-being, replacing GDP.