ZWE calls for producer responsibility overhaul

ZWE calls for producer responsibility overhaul
The front page of the ZWE study
The majority of product waste in Europe is not covered by extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, a new study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe has found.

The organisation states that a producer responsibility framework needs to be redesigned if Europe is to move towards a circular economy.

The study, ‘Redesigning Producer Responsibility’, published yesterday (14 October), analyses the waste composition of 15 European capital cities and the performance of existing EPR schemes. The cities included in the study had a total population of 33 million, around 6.5 per cent of the EU population.

The analysis found that average production of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the cities was 435 kilogrammes (kg) per person per year, of which 70 per cent is product waste and as such could be included under an EPR scheme.

It found that, on average, only 45 per cent of this product waste, by weight, is currently covered by producer responsibility schemes, meaning that EPR schemes only cover an average of 32.5 per cent of total municipal waste.

Coverage of waste by schemes varied in the cities analysed from 14.9 per cent in Copenhagen to 47.6 per cent in Paris (which also had the most product waste in its MSW – 86 per cent), with London above the average with 35 per cent.

A final indicator created by the study shows that, on average, less than 40 per cent of the waste within the scope of an EPR scheme is separately collected, meaning that less than 18 per cent of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.

Zero Waste Europe policy recommendations

Included in the report are a number of recommendations to the European Commission, which will release its long-awaited revised Circular Economy Package on 2 December this year.

Among the recommendations are calls for a broader definition and more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility, including the use of economic instruments.

The current definition of EPR, it states, ‘is not clear enough and differs in both scope and goals in different pieces of European and member states legislation’. It continues to say that EPR should recover its ‘original definition’ of an environmental protection strategy to decrease the total environmental impact from a product.

Existing EPR schemes, the study also concluded, have been ineffective in driving eco-design, due to limited coverage of product waste and the lack of modulation of EPR fees based on eco-design.

Other measures suggested by the report include the introduction of legally-binding eco-design requirements defining minimum levels of durability for all main product groups, provisions integrating reuse into EPR, full-cost coverage for producers, targets for separate collection and the expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products.

EPR ‘needs updating’ for move towards circular economy

Commenting on the findings of the report, Joan-Marc Simon, director of Zero Waste Europe, said: “The current interpretation of EPR was useful to increase recycling rates in Europe over last 20 years but it will need updating for it to help move us towards a circular economy. 

“We call on the European Commission to use the upcoming waste package to include incentives to redesign systems and products in order to drive prevention and reuse, foster a serviced-based economy, put recycling as last option and progressively phase out disposal.”

Download the full ‘Redesigning Producer Responsibility: A new EPR is needed for a circular economy’ study for free from the Zero Waste Europe website.