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Global EPR: some interesting systems

20th June 2017

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) across the EU has followed similar structures, such as the predominance of a system for packaging and legal obligations for action and payments for covered producers. This is hardly surprising giving the presence of EU directives for these schemes. However, such directives are not present for many countries globally, meaning there is significant variation in the characteristics of global waste management. Here are three schemes and scheme systems from around the world which we think are among the most interesting.

No packaging regulations in the USA

In the EU, the first producer responsibility directive, introduced in 1994, concerned packaging waste. As a consequence, the UK’s first EPR scheme focused on this form of waste. By contrast, there are currently no packaging EPR schemes in place in the USA and only one state, Rhode Island, has considered bringing in packaging waste regulation. As EPR schemes for WEEE and batteries are in place across the USA, this might represent a different perception of the importance of the problem of packaging waste than in the EU, and a greater emphasis on what value packaging adds to product. Similarly, packaging could be a focus for future efforts in the USA.

A completely voluntary system in Singapore

Many of the EPR schemes globally are legally binding for the parties concerned, with penalties for non-compliance. By contrast, Singapore uses a voluntary only system, citing the flexibility this gives industry. If industry is on board with the spirit and general aim of regulation, this could be a real asset allowing industry to make the largest difference in the way which suits them. However, the lack of legal requirement may cause industry and producers to not pay attention to EPR schemes and continue as if they didn’t exist.

Snow management in Quebec

 

A final scheme of interest is not strictly EPR, but refers to the categorisation of waste to ensure its removal occurs in a fashion which limits its environmental implications. In Quebec, ‘used snow’ (which has been cleared from roads) is classified as ‘residual materials’ due to contamination with salts, rock and other abrasive materials, and general waste. This snow must be effectively disposed of to ensure that there is no significant environmental consequences of these contaminants. In the context of Quebec, this scheme makes good ecological sense and limits pollution of water sources but is a notable contrast with the UK, in which snow does not usually pose similar problems.