What is Extended Producer Responsibility?
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility, physical and/or financial, for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. EPR shifts responsibility upstream in the product life cycle to the producer (i.e. brand owners, first importers or manufacturers) and away from municipalities and general taxpayers.
EPR programs are commonly made mandatory through legislation, but can also be adopted voluntarily (i.e. retail take-back programs) or even take the form of negotiated agreements between governments and industry. Legislated EPR programs are often adopted by jurisdictions when a designated waste stream is too costly or not profitable enough for producers or recyclers to voluntarily recover at the end of its useful life. Governments may adopt producer responsibility to achieve a greater recovery of secondary materials or as a means to divert materials from disposal. Legislated producer responsibility programs reflect the “polluter-pays-principle,” since producers are made responsible for the waste management costs of their products.
To date, the concept of EPR has been used to ensure the proper end-of-life management of a broad and growing range of post-consumer products such as batteries, electronic equipment, ozone-depleting substances, paints, pesticide containers, pharmaceuticals, used oil, and used tires. Since its inception in Europe in the early 1990s, EPR and product stewardship initiatives have gained popularity rapidly, with programs in place throughout Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, the United States and Canada.
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