Extended producer responsibility (EPR) are policies where the producer holds a responsibility for the disposal of products and/or packaging. Similar to the historical bottle recycling program, EPR policies are utilized around the globe, often as a fee associated with end of life outcomes for products and/or packaging. Once collected, the EPR fees are often used to strengthen infrastructure for end-markets, including recycling. The concept of these fees is to provide an incentive for producers to design and produce sustainable products and packaging. Theoretically switching the responsibility upstream to the producers and away from the consumers.
How EPR Policies WorkHistorically the responsibility of the end of life of a product and packaging has fallen on consumers. The consumer purchases a product then discards the packaging. The consumer decides where the packaging should be discarded; recycling, landfill, the street or public waterways, etc. The end-market infrastructure is often financed by the consumers themselves via taxes. Extended producer responsibility fees flip this responsibility to the producer. There are various ways to implement an EPR policy. For example, Europe and Canada use a producer responsibility organization. In the United States, state legislation is leading the path.
Designing with EPR Policies in MindExtended producer responsibility policies are targeting the end-of-life of a product and/or packaging. As such, the idea of ‘designing with EPR policies in mind’ could also be thought of as ‘designing with end-of-life in mind’. While EPR policies vary around the globe, here are some general guidelines to design with EPR policies or end-of-life in mind.
Reduce Packaging MaterialsA quick first step towards designing with EPR policies in mind is to reduce the amount of packaging you utilize. This approach is called lightweighting. Be careful when using this approach because there is often a point at which damage rate increases when lightweighting. Our add-on module, SCORE can help you track damage rate against environmental indicators. Helping your company maintain packaging requirements while designing an environmentally friendly package.
Evaluate Refill and Reuse OptionsSome companies are taking it upon themselves to “close the loop” and create refillable or even reusable packages. When the useful life of a package can be increased, the material usage and overall environmental impact can decrease. With reuse scenarios, a brand has to think through the logistics of distribution, collection, washing, and reuse. In other words, they are taking responsibility for their packaging and making sure it stays within the loop and is not tossed into the trash can or littered. They are recognizing that they can make durable, sleek packaging that has inherent value and can be collected and redistributed. It requires extensive logistics, but if done efficiently and correctly, it can lead to great success in terms of environmental impact, circularity, and EPR.
Use Preferred Materials & DesignsMaterials recovery facilities (MRFs) and reprocessors prefer certain materials over others for reasons such as financial value/benefit or ease of sorting. Understanding what is preferred by recovery facilities and using these materials and designs in your packaging can increase the recycling potential at the end-of-life of your packaging. According to the ASTRX report by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and The Recycling Partnership, below are commonly preferred materials in North America for plastics and paper specifically. Preferred Plastic Materials
- Sort Office Paper
- HDPE & PET bottles
- Glass bottles & jars
- Aluminum beverage cans
- Steel cans