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What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

Extended Producer Responsibility is an environmental policy approach in which the producer’s responsibility for reducing environmental impact and managing the product is extended across the whole life cycle of the product, from selection of materials and design to its end-of-life, and especially for their take-back, recycling and disposal.

 The overall objectives cover: 

  • Integration of environmental costs     
  • Improved waste management         
  • Reduction of disposal          
  • Reduction of the burden on municipalities        
  • Design of environmentally sound products    

The roots of EPR can be found in product liability, under which the manufacturer of a product is held liable for damage caused by that product to the consumer, if it was somehow defective or unreasonably dangerous. Under product liability, manufacturers are thus held liable for their products well beyond their factory gates. Product liability was already an extension of the producer’s responsibility, as before he was only responsible for the manufacturing process.

EPR is an application of the Polluter Pays Principle. The polluter is not necessary the person whose activities give rise to pollution, but rather the economic agent that plays a decisive role in the pollution, like the producer, rather than the polluter himself.

The producers have primary responsibility under EPR, but sharing responsibilities across the product chain is an inherent part of EPR. While the policy tool is called Extended Producer Responsibility, it should be borne in mind that all actors in the product chain and in society must participate in order to optimise its effects.

Under the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98

Art. 8

  1. In order to strengthen the re-use and the prevention, recycling and other recovery of waste, Member States may take legislative or non-legislative measures to ensure that any natural or legal person who professionally develops, manufactures, processes, treats, sells or imports products (producer of the product) has extended producer responsibility.  

Art. 14

  1. In accordance with the polluter-pays principle, the costs of waste management shall be borne by the original waste producer or by the current or previous waste holders.  
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