On March 10, 2021, Matt Prindiville of the civil society organization Upstream published an overview article on the background, history, and most recent developments in the discussions surrounding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). In addition, he also gives recommendations to consider in order to implement EPR policies successfully.
Prindiville explains that the beginnings of EPR-focused policy work were hampered largely due to stakeholders misunderstanding the concept, a lack of interest from industry and politicians, as well as China’s open recycling and waste policy. Extensive implementation of the EPR concept would involve, for example, consumer brands being required to “pay for the collection and recycling of their packaging, plus litter prevention and clean-up and public outreach.” The article reports that much has changed in recent years due to better communication of the concept towards policymakers, as well as political actions to ban plastic waste trade such as the Basel Convention (FPF reported) and the Chinese waste import embargo (FPF reported).
In the article, Prindiville gives recommendations policymakers should consider when attempting to implement EPR schemes. According to the article, EPRs are the foundation of a circular economy, however, many more actions are needed including, for example, expanding container deposits and source reduction/reuse policies. Furthermore, he discourages viewing EPR as “a way to determine who finances and optimizes recycling.” Instead, he recommends that EPR packaging legislation should focus on developing new reuse/refill systems that could greatly reduce upstream impacts, as well as including targets for litter prevention and mitigation. Upstream advocates that binding reuse targets similar to the EU’s recycling targets for plastics would “create the conditions in which businesses can safely invest in the associated technology and infrastructure for reuse to scale.” Business sectors such as individual foodservice companies should “use reusable packaging at a rate of 25% within 5 years and 50% within 10 years of adoption.”
Matt Prindiville (March 10, 2021). “EPR for packaging: then and now.” Upstream