EPR stands for Extended Producer Responsibility — a concept that has captured the hearts of policymakers globally.
In the field of waste management and sustainable development, Extended Producer Responsibility is a strategy to add all the environmental costs associated with a product to the market price of that product.
How Does EPR Work?
EPR is an environmental protection strategy to reach an objective of a decreased total environmental impact of a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal.
EPR works through a mandatory, negotiated or voluntary system that places responsibility for financing recycling at the doorsteps of companies or organisations profiting from placing these products on the market or sponsoring the use of such products.
Because the cost of recycling supersedes the economic value of most waste products, the recycling fees are then deployed directly to provide subsidies for collection, transportation and recycling of the specific waste.
Who is a PRO
A Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) is an entity retained by a producer or group of producers to operate a waste management system, monitor and prepare reports on quantities of used products collected and recycled.
Under EPR, producers choose to delegate this responsibility to a third party, a so-called Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), which is paid by the producer for used-product management.
In this way, EPR shifts the responsibility for waste management from government to private industry obliging producers, importers and/or sellers to internalize waste management costs in their product prices
Product Stewardship is gaining in popularity because of its less regulatory nature and its recognition that other parties have a role to play.
Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing health, safety, environmental, and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits of a product throughout all lifecycle stages.
The producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers, retailers, government, recyclers and consumers, may also play a role. Product stewardship can be implemented through either voluntary programs or legal requirements.
EPR as a Corporate Social Responsibility
CSR is generally understood as a private firms voluntary policy to contribute to societal goals. Over the last decade however, CSR has moved considerably from voluntary decisions at organizational level, to mandatory schemes at regional, national and international levels.
EPR is one of such CSR policies that must be mandatory if we are to meet the environmental goals and ensure fair and shared responsibility in managing our waste.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach of EPR as various waste streams have different dynamics. Sector stakeholders must dialogue and agree on an EPR strategy that works and achieves the environmental goals.
Some Global Best Practice of EPR Programmes
In Germany, since the adoption of EPR, “between 1991 and 1998, the per capita consumption of packaging was reduced from 94.7 kg to 82 kg, resulting in a reduction of 13.4%.
European Commission developed one waste directive for all member states (Hanisch 2000). One major goal was to have all member states recycle 25% of all packaging material and have accomplished the goal.
In the United States, EPR is gaining popularity with 40 such laws enacted since 2008. In 2010 alone, 38 such EPR bills were introduced in state legislatures across the United States.
Auto Recycling Nederland (ARN) is a producer responsibility organisation (PRO) that organizes vehicle recycling in the Netherlands under their EPR Programme.
The Canada-Wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility (CAP-EPR) was adopted in Canada in 2009 under the guidance of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.