New Research Outlines How Businesses Should be Charged for Managing Waste Packaging and Products

9th July 2020

Under recent changes in EU law, producers of packaging will be required to fund fully the costs of recycling their waste. A report by Eunomia for the European Commission makes recommendations regarding how producers should be charged so that those whose packaging or products perform poorly against a set of environmental criteria would pay more than those whose packaging or products perform better against these criteria.

 

The final report and recommendations for guidance were commissioned to inform the preparation of the European Commission’s guidance for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes.

EPR is a policy approach where producers (typically brands, manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers) take financial responsibility for the end of life management of products and packaging. EPR systems are already in place for some products and packaging and in most countries but many Member States will need to revise existing policies to implement the ‘minimum requirements’ set out in the Waste Framework Directive. As Member States adapt their schemes, they will need to ensure that their schemes achieve a range of outcomes. The Eunomia report focuses on how to ensure the following:

  • Producers pay for necessary costs: Ensuring financial contributions comply with their EPR obligations, but that these costs do not exceed those required to provide waste management services in an efficient way;
  • Modulation of fees: In the case of collective fulfilment of EPR obligations fees are modulated, i.e. varied, where possible, for individual products or groups of similar products, by taking account of factors such as durability, reparability, reusability, recyclability, and the presence of hazardous substances, and where available based on harmonised criteria to ensure a smooth functioning of the internal market;
  • Equal treatment of producers: Requiring producers to be treated equally, regardless of their origin or size, without placing a disproportionate regulatory burden on smaller producers; and
  • Monitoring and enforcement of EPR obligations – Ensuring that producer responsibility obligations are fulfilled, and that ‘free-riding’– including in the case of online sales – is effectively tackled.

Chris Sherrington Head of Environmental Policy & Economics at Eunomia who directed the study said:

“The Waste Framework Directive set out principles designed to ensure that EPR schemes achieve EU objectives in waste legislation and support the transition to a circular economy. This report should help Member States move towards greater harmonisation in their approaches. There is considerable variation in the way EPR schemes currently operate across Member States, with a range of views from different stakeholders as to how implementation should proceed. A challenge in developing this report has been to reflect on the different starting points and perspectives, and provide recommendations that seek to maximise the benefits that will arise from implementing the general minimum requirements, while encouraging continued innovation, both in terms of products and packaging, and the EPR schemes themselves. The report should also be useful for sectors such as textiles and fashion, where EPR is not currently widely applied.”

The study from Eunomia, which started in early 2019, involved significant stakeholder engagement, including a series of workshops and face-to-face meetings, as well as direct communications with interested parties. The project deliverables comprise a final report and recommendations for guidance. Eunomia has carried out several leading pieces of research on Extended Producer Responsibility in the past including a review of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the Impact of Online Sales for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Options for Extended Producer Responsibility in Wales among others.

Image courtesy of Rob Nunn via flikr CC BY 2.0.