Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
EPR is a mandatory type of product stewardship in which manufacturers take primary financial responsibility for the post-consumer environmental, safety, and economic impacts of their products. When manufacturers are required, by law, to design, manufacture, and manage their products in environmentally responsible ways, the result will be products that are less toxic and less hazardous over the course of their lifecycles. Additionally, local taxpayers and governments will be relieved of financial and operational burdens of materials collection and management. Thus, there are two features of EPR policy: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility (with government oversight) upstream to the manufacturer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to manufacturers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.
PRINCIPLES OF EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY
Since we define EPR as a legislative approach, we believe it requires further clarification of the Principles of Extended Producer Responsibility. The following EPR Principles include key elements that should be included in all EPR legislation. Although these Principles will be applied differently by different jurisdictions, they are aspirational and considered best practice to achieve maximum results.
- Producers are required to design, manage, and finance programs for end-of-life management of their products and packaging as a condition of sale. These programs may or may not use existing collection and processing infrastructure. Programs should cover all products in a given category, including those from companies no longer in business and from companies that cannot be identified.
Level Playing Field
- All producers within a particular product category have the same requirements, whether they choose to meet them individually or jointly with other producers.
- Producers have flexibility to design the product management system to meet the performance goals established by government, with minimum government involvement.
- Producer-managed systems must follow the resource conservation hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, and beneficially use, as appropriate.
- Products must be managed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.
- Producers design and implement public education programs to ensure achievement of performance goals and standards established by government.
- All consumers have convenient access to collection opportunities without charge.
Transparency and Accountability
- Government is responsible for ensuring that producer programs are transparent and accountable to the public.
- Producer programs, including their development and the fate of products managed, provide opportunity for input by all stakeholders.
Roles for Government, Retailers and Consumers
- Government is responsible for ensuring a level playing field for all parties in the product value chain to maintain a competitive marketplace with open access to all, for setting and enforcing performance goals and standards, for supporting industry programs through procurement, and for helping educate the public.
- Retailers only sell brands within a covered product category that are made by producers participating in an industry program, and are responsible for providing information to consumers on how to access the programs.
- Consumers have a responsibility to reduce waste, reuse products, use take-back and other collection programs, and make appropriate purchasing decisions based on available information about product impacts and benefits.