History of EPR
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) describes the life-cycle of products and packaging made, sold and distributed by suppliers, importers, first-sellers, brand-owners, retailers and manufacturers.
EPR encourages a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach to managing materials, meaning products and packaging discarded by the consumer are recovered, recycled and reused to make new products – redirecting waste destined for landfill and reducing our impact on the environment.
Reuse and recycling uses less energy than manufacturing from new materials and as the costs of collection, processing and recycling are shifted from taxpayers to the producers of the materials, this approach encourages industry to be more innovative in product and packaging design.
The origins of EPR are attributed to Sweden’s Thomas Lindhqvist who in 1990, on behalf of Lund University, introduced the idea of manufacturer’s being responsible for their products to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment.
The aim of his research was to ascertain how recycling and waste management systems were leading to policies to promote cleaner production.
Lindhqvist expanded on the definition of EPR in a report produced in 1992:
Extended Producer Responsibility is an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product. The Extended Producer Responsibility is implemented through administrative, economic and informative instruments. The composition of these instruments determines the precise form of the Extended Producer Responsibility.
Lindhqvist’s proposal came at a time when several European countries were initiating strategies to improve the end-of-life management of products, which resulted in almost all members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) establishing EPR policies as an approach to pollution prevention and waste minimisation.
Germany introduced the first example of EPR in Europe in 1991 with a requirement that manufacturers assume responsibility for recycling or disposing of packaging material they sold. In response, German industry set up a ‘dual system’ for waste collection, picking up household packaging alongside municipal waste collections.
EPR across Canada
As of 2013, over 80 EPR programs operate throughout Canada, most of which are regulated by provincial governments.
Canada formalised its commitment to EPR in October 2009, when the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) released a Canada-wide Action Plan for EPR. The CCME Plan aims to increase diversion of solid waste by coordinating provincial EPR programs and entrenching the principle in Canadian waste policy.