Extended producer responsibility (EPR) can be defined as “an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle.” Initially introduced as a concept by Thomas Lindhqvist of Sweden in 1990, EPR is typically understood to involve a shift in responsibility (administratively, financially or physically) from governments or municipalities to producers as well as an encouragement of producers to take environmental considerations into account during the design and manufacture phases of product development. EPR seeks to achieve a reduction in the environmental impact of products, throughout their lifespan, from production through end-of-life.
In the European Union, extended producer responsibility is mandatory within the context of the WEEE, Batteries, and ELV Directives, which put the responsibility for the financing of collection, recycling and responsible end-of-life disposal of WEEE, batteries, accumulators and vehicles on producers. The Packaging Directive also indirectly invokes the EPR principle by requiring Member States (MS) to take necessary measures to ensure that systems are set up for the collection and recycling of packaging waste. Additional waste streams for which producer responsibility organisations have been most commonly identified within the European Union include tyres, waste oil, paper and card, and construction and demolition waste. However, a much broader range of waste streams are subject to obligatory or voluntary producer responsibility systems in some MS, including: farm plastics, medicines and medical waste, plastic bags, photo-chemicals and chemicals, newspapers, refrigerants, pesticides and herbicides, and lamps, light bulbs and fittings.
In the European Union, the 2005 Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste highlights producer responsibility as a potential policy tool for increasing recycling in areas where market factors do not otherwise financially incentivise collection and recycling. The 2011 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe adds to this by encouraging the adoption of measures to extend producer responsibility to cover the whole product lifecycle via new business models, guidance on take-back and support for repair services. EPR is thus an important vehicle in moving towards European resource efficiency objectives by minimising the impact of products on the environment and using resources in a more sustainable way. The European Parliament, for example, in its Resolution on a resource efficient Europe of 24 May 2012 calls on the EU Commission to examine options for setting up EU-wide extended producer responsibility schemes with the goal of improving resource use efficiency across the EU, including in Member States that presently have below average reuse and recycling rates.
The current project is situated in the context of the need to develop guidance on the application of EPR at the EU level and the possibility for the extension of the EPR concept, as stated in the “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.” It is a continuation of the work undertaken in the study “Use of economic instruments and waste management performance” which examined EPR systems, among other economic instruments, as methods for maximising waste management performance.
As demonstrated in recent studies issued by the European Commission, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, among other tools, could be a solution towards a more resource efficient European society. This study, launched in October 2012, seeks to identify performing EPR schemes for different waste streams (e.g. ELV, WEEE, Batteries, Packaging, Paper, Used Oil) and prepare detailed case studies, in order to identify common characteristics across schemes, which could serve as a guide for improving the effectiveness of such schemes. The study should allow the Commission to formulate new proposals to ensure an optimal use of EPR schemes.
The objective of the project is to describe, compare and analyse different types of EPR systems operating in the EU in order to identify the necessary conditions and best practices for their functioning. Based on the results of this analysis, different options will be analysed which may be used by the Commission to ensure the diffusion/adoption of these optimal conditions by the Member States. The scope of the project is the EU-27 plus Croatia.