As part of the European Union’s (EU) expansive collection of legislations and regulations under the Green Deal, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes are featured in pieces such as the revised Waste Framework Directive and the proposed Strategy for Circular and Sustainable Textiles.
What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that makes manufacturers accountable for the environmental impact of their products throughout their lifecycle, focusing on recycling and waste disposal. Originating in EU regulations, it’s a tool to promote a circular economy.
EPR is not a new concept within the EU. The concept was accredited to Thomas Linqhqvist, a Swedish academic, in a 1990 report for the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. However, Linqhqvist acknowledges that the idea was already present in a few Western countries, including Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Switzerland.
Why Extended Producer Responsibilities are important
Extended Producer Responsibilities bring several benefits in the battle to turn linear supply chains circular. They force companies to begin to think with a circular economy mindset. For the first time, companies must consider what might happen to the product after the consumer is finished with it. In theory, it should also facilitate the financing of waste management services.
As Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes are rolled out, they should lead to increased collection and recycling rates of waste. As part of the EU, all EU member states have EPR schemes on packaging, batteries, end-of-life vehicles and Electrical and Electronic (E&E) equipment. The UK packaging EPR has been more complicated to implement than anticipated and lags behind with the implementation of an EPR for packaging waste due to be rolled out in 2025, with businesses required to begin inputting packaging data into the UK government website by 1st April 2024.
Extended Producer Responsibility legislation in the EU
Within the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and the Waste Framework Directive, the EU sets out the Extended Producer Responsibility legislation principles that the member states will need to follow
- The creation of a database of all affected producers should be established
- Producers need to bear the financial burden for the end-of-life costs of their products
- As within the AGEC law, EPR fees should be subject to eco-modulation, where possible
However, a lack of harmonisation plagues the EPR concept within the EU. France has steamed ahead in its use of EPR schemes, even expanding upon them in their AGEC law (Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy). Sweden’s textile EPR will be coming into force on 1st January 2024. Spain’s will come into force in 2025, while Italy’s is in work, with no published timeline advising when we are likely to see this becoming a national law. To make matters more complex, member states differ in their operational EPR model. For example, France has an integrated model, whereby waste management is facilitated by local authorities. Whereas Germany has a dual model, where the producer must arrange the sorting and then the disposal of waste.
Despite this complexity, Linghqvist remains optimistic about the potential of EPR schemes. But he, too, recognises the need for a unified approach for the EPR concept to work to its full effect. In 2023, Lindquist said “I think that we need the EU to do something because so many decisions are made by it for the member countries. We need legislation in a number of areas and we won’t get into it on a national level. We need researchers who are helping come up with feasible ways of measuring what is good recycling….I think it’s definitely a very big thing and we could already do so much better if we really decided to. But we also need some new tools, maybe in the form of standards, etc. So we had the same way of measuring. We need people who find this exciting and interesting to develop and push through the systems.”
In a bid to resolve the lack of harmonisation, the EU will be introducing new legislation on packaging in 2024. The proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation will contain bans on types of packaging, as well as further recycling and re-use targets.
In order to be compliant with EPR’s in member state national law, companies in the affected sectors need to register with a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) in each member state where they sell their products, for reporting volumes. Most PRO’s are members of PRO Europe a list of which can be found on www.pro-e.org.
The affected company will need to follow the below process
- Register with national authorities (such as LUCID in Germany)
- Find an EPR organisation on the PRO Europe website and pay the fee
- Check if any labels are required to go on the packaging (such as the Triman Logo in France)
Penalties for non-compliance
The penalties imposed for non-compliance with EPR schemes will vary, depending on the country, and the nature and scale of the violation. Some possible penalties are fines, removal from the sale of products, the revoking of licenses or permissions, and legal liabilities, as well as the significant reputational costs that these can cause.
How Eurofins can help
We offer a range of services to help manufacturers and their supply chains with Extended Producer Responsibilities
- Sustainability-related services overview
- Durability testing and verification marks
- Sustainable paper and packaging
- Life cycle assessment (LCA) services
- Footwear environmental impact calculator