Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) is the idea that the producer take responsibility for the full lifecycle of the product and packaging they produce. It’s not a new concept but recently we have been seeing it proposed as a solution to the problem of too much waste. We look at what it means and how it could have an impact.
“Right now, consumer goods companies can design a product, package it any way they like, and leave the problem of what to do with the product, its packaging and its environmental impacts to local governments, taxpayers, and garbage ratepayers. This is not a model system for the sustainable management of materials.” www.upstreampolicy.org
What would happen if we shift the responsibility to the producer, those who profit from creating the product in the first place? Would we see a reduction in packaging used and an increase in product recycling rates?
The crux of ERP is that “accountability for product and packaging waste is placed onto the companies that design and use packaging. Producers are required to finance the collection of their packaging materials, and ensure that they are reused or recycled.” http://www.cradle2.org
The aim of this is to increase recycling rates and create incentive to reduce the amount of packaging used. Additionally, if the producer shoulders the cost of disposing of their product, then its true value is realised. A product or packaging may be cheap to produce but if it is expensive to recycle, then it may not be viable after all.
Policy recommendations for ERP include the following (full list here):
1. Set producer targets for waste recovery and recycling.
2. Driving reduction of packaging and phasing out the use of non recyclable packaging.
3. Prohibiting the incineration of packaging
4. Build efficient community recycling infrastructures
When waste management systems originally became the responsibility of municipalities, the waste was different. For example, household waste included paper, glass, tin cans and kitchen waste. Since then our lifestyle, products and packaging has changed and the variety of different materials has increased. ERP is being proposed as a potential policy adjustment to accommodate the changes in the quantities and types of waste we currently produce.
We really like this idea. We at GreenHome will take back all used GreenHome compostable food packaging if you drop it off at our collection points. Contact us for more details.
What do you think?
Some more reading.