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seeba Fact Sheet
Producer Responsibility


What is Producer Responsibility?

Essentially, producer responsibility involves:

  • Extending a producer's responsibility for a product to the post-consumer stage of a products life cycle (hence the phrase extended producer responsibility - producers already have some degree of responsibility for their products before they become discarded e.g. product liability)
  • Shifting responsibility upstream towards the producer and away from municipalities / local authorities
  • Providing incentives for producers to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of their products
    Also known as: EPR / Product Take Back / Product stewardship

Extract from the EU Community Strategy on Waste Management, 1996

"Considering the life cycle of a product from manufacture until the end of its useful life, producers, material suppliers, trade, consumers and public authorities share specific waste management responsibilities. However it is the product manufacturer who has a predominant role since he takes key decisions concerning his product which largely determine its waste management potential."

 

Extract from European Parliament Opinion on the directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment - 1 March 2001

"The objective of [producer responsibility] is that by making producers financially responsible for their products when these become waste, an upstream effect is created, which leads to design for the environment, considering the durability, repairability or upgrading, disassembly, recycling of the product. In addition through the eco-design, the reuse of resources and separate collection, hazardous substances contained in the [product] are prevented from entering into the environment in an uncontrolled way."

 

OECD Guidance Manual on EPR 2002

"A primary function of EPR is the transfer of the financial and / or physical responsibility of waste management from local government and the general taxpayer to the producer."

"Environmental costs of treatment and disposal could then be incorporated into the cost of the product. This creates the setting for a market to emerge that truly reflects the environmental impacts of the product, and in which consumers could make their selection accordingly"

 

How Does 'Producer Responsibility' Work?

Greenpeace's Briefing on Extended Producer Responsibility, 1995

"The aim of EPR is to encourage producers to prevent pollution and reduce resource ad energy use in each stage of the product life-cycle through changes in product design and process technology. In its widest sense EPR is the principle that producers bear a degree of responsibility for all the environmental impacts of their products. This includes upstream impacts, arising from the choice of materials and from the manufacturing process and downstream impacts, from the use and disposal of products. Producers accept their responsibility when they accept legal, physical, or economic responsibility for the environmental impacts that cannot be eliminated by design"

 

OECD Guidance Manual on EPR, 2001

"EPR is reflected in a new generation of pollution prevention policies that focus on the product instead of on production facilities. Through such policies, producers are encouraged to re-evaluate decisions concerning materials (and chemical) selection, production processes, design, packaging, and marketing strategies. While EPR began as an approach to address the large volume of packaging entering the waste stream, the trend is towards the extension of EPR to new products, product groups and waste streams - such as electrical appliances and electronics"

i.e. "Producers accept responsibility when they design their products to minimise environmental impacts over the product's life cycle and when they accept physical and / or economic responsibility for those impacts that cannot be eliminated by design"

So producer responsibility is in effect a new policy tool for pollution prevention and waste / resource use minimisation usually translated into practice via legally enforceable product take back systems. It is characterised by e.g:

  • Responsibility placed on producers for take back of the product at the end-of-life stage (i.e. waste) including financial responsibility for the establishment and functioning of the take back schemes and for dealing with the end-of-life products
  • Bans on disposal to landfill / incineration; restrictions on energy recovery
  • Targets for recovery / recycling of EOL products (usually with a high recycling quotient), with prescriptive conditions governing methods of treatment
  • Prescription of standards for minimum recycled content for new products
  • Reporting requirements, monitoring provisions and information disclosure
  • Bans / Phase out of hazardous substances and material bans & restrictions

EU Producer Responsibility measures past, present & future

The EU's 1989 'Community Strategy for Waste Management' policy document - which forms the cornerstone of European waste policy - as revised in 1996 stipulates that the principle of producer responsibility will be incorporated in all future measures

  • Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste
  • Directive 91/157/EEC on Batteries and Accumulators
  • Directive 2000/53/EC on End of Life Vehicles
  • Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
  • Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS)

Supplemented by:

  • Directive 75/442/EEC on Waste ('Framework Directive on Waste')
  • Directive 91/689/EEC on Hazardous Waste
  • Directive 1999/31/EC on the Landfill of Waste (the 'Landfill Directive')

 

Fact Sheet on Producer Responsibility

Fact Sheet on Land Fill Directive

Fact Sheet on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Fact Sheet on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

Fact Sheet on the Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in EEE Directive

Fact Sheet on End-of-life Vehicles

Fact Sheet on End-of-life Vehicles Directive

Fact Sheet on Packaging

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