KEY CONSIDERATIONS: EPR policy impacts often depend largely on implementation and policing capabilities.
MORE INFORMATION: WWF EPR Project
There is no economic incentive for product manufacturers to reduce the use of plastic in their products, so they just keep making more plastic.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is commonly defined as shifting the responsibility of the end-of-life management of products and materials to their respective producers. There are two main goals in establishing this kind of system:
- Reducing the burden of municipalities and placing a shared physical and/or financial responsibility for waste management on producers.
- Providing incentives for manufacturers to design resource efficient and low impact products.
EPR systems have been implemented since 1970, but a significant increase in adoption can be seen in the last decade. The coverage of costs for collection, sorting, and recycling has been identified as one of the major strengths of responsibility systems because they can ease the burden on public budgets, reducing the financial costs of waste management. For example, in Belgium, around €134 million and around €1 billion in Germany are generated annually from fees that come from an established system that address responsibility in the corporate sector.
EPR systems have contributed to the development of efficient separate collection schemes for specific waste streams, including plastic packaging. Investment and operational costs for waste management of used packaging are now covered at least partly by industry. Potentially, this is a huge advantage for developing countries where the establishment of a proper waste management system is hampered by the inability of governmental or communal institutions to cover the whole cost for waste collection, sorting, and recycling.
Several consumer good companies have already made commitments regarding the design of packaging, recycling, and support of packaging waste collection. But these commitments need structures for collection, sorting, and treatment of packaging waste, which can only be developed on a regional or national level through collective industry and governmental efforts. Only the EPR schemes developed as an inclusive governance model associating all stakeholders can play an important role to help the infrastructure build up.
Mandatory vs. Voluntary
A rough distinction can be made between mandatory and voluntary EPR schemes. Mandatory systems are based on a legal framework which is defining the group of actors which have to adhere to EPR requirements given in law or will be penalized if the rules are not obeyed. A voluntary system is based on agreements between some market actors, the government, other stakeholders, or established by market actors alone.
CASE STUDY EXAMPLES
On 23 August 2017, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment adopted an amendment (Regulation No. 1289/2017) to the Waste Regulation No. 930/2004 in order to introduce mandatory extended producer responsibility for packaging. It provides that packaging may only be placed on the Norwegian market if it complies with essential requirements in the regulation. These basic requirements relate to the design of the packaging, the re-use of packaging, and requirements for recycling. Packaging must be manufactured in such a way that a certain percentage of the materials used can be recycled for the production of marketable products in accordance with applicable community standards.
Producers who supply the Norwegian market with at least 1,000 kg of a packaging type per year shall finance the collection, sorting, material recycling and other processing of waste packaging through membership of a collection scheme approved by the Norwegian Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with Section 7.14. Producers have a duty to work towards the prevention of waste caused by packaging. The producer, in collaboration with other producers, shall report annually on waste prevention efforts. This includes the extent to which the basic requirements regarding the manufacture of the packaging and its composition have been met.
The OECD lists the following case studies on its EPR resource page:
Australia: The Australian National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme
Canada: Promoting Sustainable Materials, Management Through Extended Producer Responsibility: Canadian Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
China: How Does the Chinese E-waste Disposal Fund Scheme Work?
Colombia: EPR Schemes Including for WEEE in Colombia
Belgium: Extended Producer Responsibility: The Case of Used Tyres in Flanders
Japan: The Application of EPR to Packaging Policies in Japan