Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging is a policy approach that extends the producer’s responsibility for a product beyond their current scope – for worker health and safety, consumer safety and production costs – to also include the management of their product’s packaging after the product has been used by consumers. EPR policies generally shift the waste management cost or physical collection partially or fully from local governments to producers. Policies can also involve incentives for producers to take environmental considerations into account when designing their products.
EPR was first pioneered in Europe over 20 years ago. Since then, the vast majority of EU Member States have introduced EPR for packaging, although the form of implementation varies from one country to the next, ranging from mandatory regulations to voluntary agreements between government and industry to voluntary industry initiatives. EPR for packaging in Europe has offered a much more certain future for the entire packaged goods sector. It is far less costly for consumers and society at large, and is the preferred policy tool for industry to drive recovery and recycling packaging rates.
EPR has been in the spotlight in recent years because it has delivered remarkable results in Europe. EPR for packaging has delivered new innovations in packaging waste management and packaging design that have reduced the environmental impact of packaging and packaged goods. A EUROPEN analysis of EU data covering 1998-2011 shows that packaging production and packaging waste disposal have clearly been decoupled from economic growth in the EU-15.
There has been good progress in applying EPR principles effectively, but there is still room for improvement. EUROPEN is exploring minimum requirements for all existing EPR compliance schemes to ensure a level playing field in all member states.
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