A producer's perspective on EPR: What is required for success?

Successful Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy has the power to accelerate society’s shift to a more circular economy.

REPIC LogoLeading and shaping producer responsibility on behalf of many of the UK’s biggest household brands, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) compliance scheme, REPIC, offers a producer’s perspective on the requirements needed to maximise the opportunity to make a real difference.

What you need to know about EPR

EPR is designed to encourage producers to design products and packaging that are easy to be recycled and ensure that producers pay all the environmental costs associated with a product through its lifecycle. This includes the cost of collecting, reprocessing and recycling end-of-life electricals, batteries and packaging waste.

Plans to introduce the first EPR scheme, for packaging, are now in progress. The first consultations on the implementation of EPR for the battery and WEEE regimes are expected next year, however, producers are not complacent and many are already seeking ways in which they can increase the recycled material content in products, design for recycling and develop more circular business models.

EPR driving innovation

A well-implemented EPR policy can drive innovation and provide producers with a real opportunity to make a difference through finding more sustainable solutions for both their products and packaging.

Hitting the right balance

Properly governed legislation can help producers do more, however, there is a need to strike the right balance between encouraging best practices in eco-design without unduly impacting the cost that will ultimately be borne by consumers. EPR legislation should reward those who are doing more but needs to be fair, achievable and controllable.

Communication is key

To design for recycling and develop more circular business models, producers require support from both the industry and the Government.

This starts with producers and recycling industries engaging more with each other. Producers can share information on the sustainable solutions that are being implemented and the types of materials being used in their products. This information will help recyclers to plan for the future, improve separation and recycling processes and maximise material recovery. Explaining how producers can best maximise a product’s lifecycle and improve the potential for recycling, reuse and repurposing can benefit all stakeholders.

Likewise, treatment plants can help producers by explaining developments and future improvements in recycling processes that could provide better material outputs for use in products.  Reuse facilities can provide information on the types of products that are more suited to reuse and provide producers with information that can help improve product durability.

REPIC recognises the important role of compliance schemes in facilitating such discussions and has already enabled some of its producer members to introduce recycled materials into their products.

Government has a part to play

Producers recognise the importance of eradicating legacy POPs (persistent organic pollutants) from the supply chain, however, an exit strategy is required to identify when more plastic can be provided back into the supply chain; accessing sufficient recycled plastic of the right grade is currently difficult. Similar consideration needs to be given to how the UK defines food-grade plastic or develops new processes that support the recovery of more material.

Government can take the lead in trade agreements that encourage other countries to take recycled plastic from the UK, whilst preventing the illegal export of waste. It can also facilitate an all-actors approach, which fosters and encourages all relevant parties to work together to achieve a more circular economy.

This is a sector that undergoes regular technological change, and legislation that is sufficiently agile to deal with this will help facilitate a more circular economy.