30 Jun This Report is (All About) Garbage – Extended Producer Responsibility: Designing the Regulatory Framework
This Report is (All About) Garbage –
Extended Producer Responsibility: Designing the Regulatory Framework
Extended producer responsibility [“EPR”] is a waste management model that extends responsibility for waste products to the producers who made them. This is very different from a traditional waste model, under which municipalities and other levels of government are responsible for dealing with waste, usually by operating landfills and waste collection programs, as well as various recycling programs.
by Allison Boutillier
The concept of EPR emerged in Europe in the late 1980s in response to problems municipalities were facing managing increasing volumes and complexities of waste. The costs of waste management were increasing rapidly, and there was also increasing public opposition to new landfills. The proposed solution was to involve producers in waste management, both to help pay for waste management costs and to try to give producers an incentive to redesign their products to be easier to recycle and to create less waste.
On a basic level, there are three types of responsibility an EPR system can extend to producers. The first is financial responsibility, which means producers must pay for the waste management systems that dispose of or recycle their products. The second is operational responsibility, which means that producers must actually set up and run a separate waste management system to deal with their products. Operational responsibility usually includes financial responsibility, meaning the producers must also pay for the systems they run. Finally, the third type of responsibility is informational responsibility, which means that producers must provide information to the public and other stakeholders about their products and the waste management systems available to deal with them.
There are a number of different waste management systems that fall under the EPR umbrella. The most commonly known is the deposit-refund system, which is used for most beverage container recycling programs in Canada. Under a deposit-refund system, the consumer pays a deposit when purchasing a product and receives a refund for returning the product to a collection site. The product is then recycled and turned into something new.
Although most people are more familiar with deposit-refund systems, the most common EPR system is what is called a producer take-back system. Under this type of system, producers are responsible for establishing separate waste management systems to collect their waste products and then recycle or otherwise dispose of them. Electronics and electrical products, tires, paint, used engine oil, and batteries are commonly subject to producer take-back programs.
In Canada, there has been increasing interest in producer take-back systems due to their potential for shifting waste management costs away from municipalities. As well, take-back systems tend to increase recycling rates, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all of which are desirable outcomes. In 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment came out with a Canada-Wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility, and since then, every province has implemented producer take-back recycling programs with the exception of Alberta.
To take a detailed look at EPR systems and their potential to improve waste management in Alberta, the Environmental Law Centre has published a new report, Extended Producer Responsibility: Designing the Regulatory Framework. This report outlines the concept of EPR, including its history, its objectives, the regulatory mechanisms that drive it, and the roles of various stakeholders. Additionally, the report provides a detailed discussion of the policy considerations and the regulatory framework behind a producer take-back system, including a description of each essential legal element and a survey of the design choices that have been made in other provinces.
In the end, the report considers if the EPR model would be appropriate for Alberta, whether as a replacement for the province’s existing waste management systems or as a tool for creating new recycling systems. Generally, it concludes that EPR is just one model for waste management, and its success or failure in either of these roles would ultimately depend on the careful design of a system that makes sense for Alberta.
For more information, check out the report at Extended Producer Responsibility: Designing the Regulatory Framework.
by Allison Boutillier
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