Extended Producer Responsibility

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Description

Brian Milani:

"Extended producer responsibility is the most prominent regulatory principle based on the life-cycle approach, and aims to implement ownership patterns that encourage stewardship and conservation of resources. It responds to one of the most insidious characteristics of capitalism, in which a producer’s responsibility for toxicity and waste ends with a product’s sale, thus dumping externalized costs onto society. EPR simply extends the producer’s liability (typically via extended ownership) through a product’s entire life cycle. For a “product of service,” for instance, like a carpet or television, the customer would lease rather than own, with servicing and eventual disposal (i.e. replacement) handled by the producer-owner. Facing these internalized costs, producers usually get very creative about reducing them. EPR thus has major effects both on product design—preventing problems—and on overall resource consumption. While an application of the “polluter pays” principle, EPR can offer as many regulatory carrots as sticks, since it provides smart producers new opportunities for materials and energy saving, toxics reduction and service markets.

“Take back” programs are the most well-known example of EPR in the existing economy. While such programs in Canada have been very modest, applied to beverage containers, batteries, tires, etc., the German “Green Dot” or “Dual System”, established in the early nineties, has become the model for EPR in packaging and other product areas. But EPR advocates like Sweden’s Thomas Lindhqvist (2000) point out that EPR is a principle that can and must be applied more generally to entire economies, albeit in different forms for different products and sectors. He distinguishes between various forms of responsibility, including liability; economic responsibility; physical responsibility; ownership; and informative responsibility (where the producer simply provides information on life-cycle impacts). Properly applied for each kind of product, EPR produces a similar effect, encouraging “ecological service” relationships where the focus of sales is on meeting needs with minimal stuff." (http://greeneconomics.net/ValueRevolution.htm)