A fundamental principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR) is that by making producers financially and/or physically responsible for the management of end-of-life (EOL) products, the producers internalise waste management considerations into their overall product strategies and seek ways to minimise their resulting costs.
In theory, EPR should result in design for environment (DfE) improvements such as product redesign and material substitution. Properly designed incentives should result in products that are, for example, easier to disassemble or recycle and that reduce or eliminate toxic materials that may pose risks to human health and the environment.
Does EPR actually result in DfE changes? Are such approaches cost effective? These are fundamental issues the Global Product Stewardship Council will be addressing in the coming year. First, it is important to understand how EPR approaches themselves can be designed to provide incentives for DfE.
Colleagues, some of whom work for GlobalPSC members or have been active in our discussions, address allocating EPR to produce DfE incentives in a December 2012 article for the European Energy and Environmental Law Review.
The authors discuss the ability of current EPR laws and policy tools to create appropriate design incentives through changes in responsibility for waste management, with an emphasis on Europe’s WEEE Directive for used electronics. Their research has implications for many EPR and product stewardship schemes.
Key questions posed include:
- Should each producer be individually responsible for the waste of its own products, only, or is collective responsibility acceptable or even inevitable?
- Should a producer be responsible for orphan products (whose producers are no longer on the market)?
- Should the producer have both financial and operational responsibility?
- Should producers be responsible for historical waste?