Plastics play a significant role in modern society, but it’s up to society to ensure we drastically reduced plastic pollution. Today, policymakers are eager to shift the cost of waste management to producers to build a circular economy, where items are designed for recirculation and collected for recycling after use.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that includes managing products or packaging after consumers have used it. Since its debut in Europe in the early 1990s, EPR landscapes have evolved and expanded to key sectors such as packaging, electronics, batteries and vehicles. Emerging economies are also recognizing the strength of EPR programs as of recent years. Despite the challenges of implementing, governments in developing markets are keen on EPR's ability to give manufacturers and importers responsibility for collecting and recycling discarded goods.
A FAIR SHARE FOR GREEN RECOVERY
The economic viability of waste collection, mechanical sorting, and recycling are dependent on dedicated funding around the world. EPR schemes are one way to ensure that all industry players pay a fair share in collecting and sorting packaging so it can be reprocessed into products, materials or substances for reuse. Without such policy mechanisms to provide stable and sufficient funding, collection and recycling rates will likely never scale globally.
The upward spiraling cost of addressing litter and environmental pollution motivates policymakers to introduce EPR schemes. Waste management comes with tremendous logistical challenges of collection, sorting, recycling and disposal (including exporting waste). When combined with the land and waterway cleanup efforts, waste and stormwater capture systems, outreach and education, the take-make-waste system's price tag quickly becomes exorbitant. Local governments realize EPR schemes enable taxpayer money to be used on other essential services instead of waste management and cleanup.
CONSUMER BRANDS SUPPORT EPR, TOO
The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites more than 500 organizations behind a shared vision, in which plastics never become waste. The Global Commitment 2020 Progress Report, compiled by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with input from the UN Environment Programme, noted a number of major packaged goods signatories indicated their support for EPR schemes.
The report mentions companies such as Nestlé stating its support for “effective mandatory EPR schemes”. Another signatory, Danone S.A., indicated its support for “the EPR principle”, including deposit return systems for beverage bottles. Unilever also stated that participation in EPR schemes and strengthening its commitment to improving waste management infrastructure through investment and partnerships. Thanks to consumers driving sustainable packaging, brands and retailers are raising recycled content targets, which helps drive investment in recycling infrastructure.
To read more about the future of EPR schemes in both developed and developing markets, we recommended reading the complimentary white paper entitled “Resource Recovery Playbook: expectations for the circular economy of 2030 and the steps required to achieve a sustainable future.” You can download it from our website here.