EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY (EPR) Is This Concept Environmentally and Economically Sound?
The OECD has conducted a number of workshops on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a policy tool and is preparing a guidance manual on EPR. Several European countries have enacted EPR based legislation, particularly in relation to packaging, but increasingly for other products. EPR attempts to make the producer responsible for downstream, post consumption, recovery of waste materials as a means of internalising this ‘environmental cost’. It is assumed that this will provide the producer with an incentive to reduce the downstream waste associated with the product, hence reducing the overall quantity of waste produced and, hopefully, the resources used. This paper examines EPR in a broader context and asks whether, in effect, it optimally achieves positive environmental outcomes and does so at minimal community costs. It asks whether there are other means of achieving waste reduction outcomes and improved resource utilization that come at lower community cost and are easier to integrate into existing marked based systems of charging for goods and services. The EPR approach is also examined in the context of an integrated approach to waste management. Its potential for distortion of market-based systems is also discussed.