Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a form of waste management that puts the responsibility of waste disposal of a product on the product manufacturer, not the consumer. EPR seeks to add the environmental costs of a product that occur throughout a product’s life cycle (manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and disposal) into the cost of production, ensuring that municipalities and consumers are not solely responsible for the costs and effort associated with the safe disposal of products. A simple example of extended producer responsibility can be seen in grocery stores charging for disposable bags. This small fee reduces the store’s environmental impact by encouraging consumers to bring reusable bags.
The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility began in 1990 when Sweden’s Thomas Lindhqvist proposed that manufacturers should be responsible for their products to the Swedish Ministry of Environment. This concept was created as a means to lower the environmental impact of products. This is done because manufacturers will need to figure out environmentally sound ways to dispose of their products, and as such often leads to more environmentally friendly productions. This could mean biodegradable packaging and products, reduced packaging, reusable packaging or encouraging the use of reusable products, and more.
The end goal of EPR is to improve ‘end of life management’ of products, meaning reducing how many products end up in landfills and increasing the recycling, reuse, and reduction of waste rates. By establishing EPR rules, a municipality, province, or country can work towards preventing excess pollution and minimizing waste.
What Does EPR Look Like in Canada
In 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment put forth a Canada-Wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility. This plan sought to provide guidance on how provinces and municipalities can strengthen their EPR programs and utilize them as an environmental risk-management tool. The objective of the Canada-Wide plan for EPR is to have producers adopt processes that account for the full-life cycle of their products and have the producers’ responsibility for end-of-use product disposal costs be equal to the beginning of the production costs. Many provinces have enacted EPR policies, including Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario.
In March 2021, Alberta began the consultation and planning processes to enact legislation for extended producer responsibility. Alberta Environment and Parks put the discussion paper forward, encouraging stakeholder engagement to find out how Alberta can introduce advanced recycling requirements and EPR to Alberta producers. The Recycling Council of Alberta advocates for extended producer responsibility, believing that it is the key to advancing a circular economy. They have put forth a significant amount of literature dictating how a successful EPR program would drive a circular economy, be outcomes based, have ambitious and measurable goals, ensure a level playing field, and allow for complementary regulations that would help reduce Alberta’s waste production and have a positive impact on the environment.
British Columbia currently works within an EPR model. Producers in B.C. are required to create a plan for their products. Every year these producers are required to create a report showcasing that they have followed through with their EPR plan and post it online. The current industries that are responsible for EPR plans are beverage containers, lead-acid batteries, packaging and paper products, paints, solvents, pesticides, and gasoline, pharmaceuticals, tires, and used oil and antifreeze. B.C.’s approach to EPR sets out the following guidelines:
- Promote designing packaging and products that are easily recyclable
- Utilize province-wide collection networks to make recycling more accessible for consumers
- Create less waste and higher rates of recycling
- Producers are responsible for funding their recycling programs
- Reduce local and Indigenous governments’ waste management costs
Ontario has enacted an EPR plan which they call their Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. Their plan moves Ontario to a producer responsibility waste diversion program, meaning that producers are responsible for coordinating and funding the full life-cycle of their products. Ontario’s goals for this producer responsibility program is to promote waste-diversion, align costs of production with a full-life cycle of a product to include the product’s end-of-life, save taxpayers money, and incentivize creativity and development of products to make them easier to recycle.
How [Re] Waste Fits into an EPR Model
[Re] Waste is an ideal company to work with in an extended producer responsibility model. This is because in an EPR model, producers are responsible for both the management and the funding of their products that have met the end-of-life cycle. [Re] Waste will take over all coordination and management of plastic waste collection, helping producers meet their quotas for EPR. We organize the collection and remanufacturing of plastic waste into usable products, helping you meet the expectations of an EPR program while also creating something new from your company’s plastic waste. If you’re interested in working with [Re] Waste to reduce your business’ environmental impact and the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, please contact us!