On March 10, 2021, Matt Prindiville of the civil society organization Upstream published an overview article on the history, background, and most recent developments in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) packaging debate. In addition, he also gives recommendations to consider when attempting to implement EPR policies successfully.
Prindiville explains that the beginnings of EPR-focused policy work were hampered, especially due to stakeholders misunderstanding the concept, a lack of interest from industry and politicians, as well as China’s open recycling and waste policy. Extensive implementation of the EPR concept would mean, for example, consumer brands such as Nestlé would be required to “pay for the collection and recycling of their packaging, plus litter prevention and clean-up and public outreach.” The article reports that much has changed in recent years due to better communication of the concept towards policymakers, as well as political actions to ban plastic waste trade such as the Basel Convention (FPF reported) and the Chinese waste import embargo (FPF reported).
In the article, Prindiville gives recommendations policymakers should consider when attempting to implement EPR schemes. According to Prindiville, EPRs are the foundation of a circular economy, however, many more actions are needed, for example, expanding container deposits and source reduction/reuse policies. Furthermore, he discourages viewing EPR as “a way to determine who finances and optimizes recycling.” He recommends instead that EPR packaging legislation should focus on developing new reuse/refill systems that could greatly reduce upstream impacts, as well as including targets for litter prevention and mitigation. Upstream advocates that binding reuse targets similar to the EU’s recycling targets for plastics would “create the conditions in which businesses can safely invest in the associated technology and infrastructure for reuse to scale.” Business sectors such as individual foodservice companies should “use reusable packaging at a rate of 25% within 5 years and 50% within 10 years of adoption.”
Food Packaging Forum, 11 March 2021