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Extended Producer Responsibility Shifts Businesses Toward Sustainable Practices

Businesses are increasingly embracing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a strategy to address the challenges posed by the post-consumer stage of a product's life cycle.

Waste360 Staff

December 11, 2023

2 Min Read
Scharfsinn / Alamy Stock Photo

Businesses are increasingly embracing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a strategy to address the challenges posed by the post-consumer stage of a product's life cycle. This policy approach, which extends a producer's responsibility beyond production to encompass recycling and disposal, has gained traction worldwide. A recent study from Iowa State University sheds light on the effectiveness of EPR policies in fostering comprehensive recycling programs.

According to the research, regions such as Europe, Canada, and select U.S. states like Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California, which have adopted EPR policies, tend to boast more effective and robust recycling programs. The study emphasizes the crucial role of EPR in overcoming critical recycling complications, including high collection costs, sorting complexity, inconsistent feedstocks, and contamination concerns impacting safety.

Research, backed by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutritional Sciences highlights challenges hindering the expansion of recycling programs. Studies reveal 8.66 percent of municipal solid waste plastic is currently recycled, with a staggering 75.9% of plastic waste ending up in U.S. landfills in 2018.

EPR laws increase producers' accountability throughout a product's lifecycle by applying fees and taxes based on recyclability and volume generation. Countries with established plastic EPR regulations and landfill bans often exhibit higher recycling rates, indicating the potential impact of regulatory mandates on enhancing recycling.

“By adapting current single stream waste collection systems into consumer sorted streams, adopting a national deposit-return scheme, and implementing EPR systems, new innovations can facilitate more sustainable end-of-life scenarios increasing high-quality recycled feedstocks for food contact packaging,” according to authors Khariun Tumu, Dr. Keith Vorst, and Dr. Greg Curtzwiler.

Tumu, the lead author of the study, highlights EPR's potential to elevate the quality and quantity of recycled plastics, particularly in the food contact materials (FCMs) or food packaging realm. Nothing, “It [EPR] creates more fields for post-consumer feedstock applications, particularly in the food contact materials or food packaging realm, ensuring the production of safer, compliant recycled materials as regulatory compliance is necessary for this sector."

"On the other hand, EPR schemes grow consumer involvement in recycling by enhancing consumer-producer interaction through offering incentives or return systems. This educates consumers, encouraging a recycling-driven mindset, crucial for enhancing recycling rates, reducing landfill dependency, and advancing environmental sustainability.”

The researchers conclude that a transformation in domestic waste collection programs and product design is important to maximize recovery, boost recycling rates and enhance overall environmental, human, and animal health.

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