Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) shifts the burden of product waste management back onto the companies that make the products that become waste.

EPR requires companies that manufacture and/or sell products and packaging to be financially or physically responsible for such products after their useful life. Quite simply, EPR advocates believe that to get to the root cause of waste, communities need to stop picking up after the producers of products that become waste and begin demanding that they do so themselves.

Companies, of course, may pass costs along to consumers. But when true lifecycle costs - such as the price of waste disposal or pollution clean-up - are reflected in product prices, it creates a market incentive for producers to design better products. If companies have to pay for managing products when they are used up, they have an incentive to make products that last longer, recycle easily, and don't contain toxic chemicals.

EPR legislation has been passed in the European Union and is spreading to most industrialized countries. It is being applied to products as diverse as packaging, automobiles, electronics, batteries, paint and pharmaceuticals.

EPR's popularity stems from the fact that it is a fertile synthesis of approaches from the political left and right. From a fiscal conservative perspective, EPR makes sense because it gets waste management off the tax base and it is based on the notion that market competition is more efficient and effective than government-managed programs. Those of a more liberal bent support EPR because they believe that producers should have responsibility for pollution prevention.

Extended producer responsibility, clean production, and zero waste are three key solutions to our global waste crisis.

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