European recyclers are urging European and national policymakers to exercise greater scrutiny before establishing new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Schemes. Often portrayed as a silver bullet to improve waste management, EPR Schemes have significantly multiplied in recent years as the burden of the polluter-pays principle has shifted to producers. In its latest position paper, European recyclers warn that sufficient assessment of whether a waste stream has a positive or negative value is needed prior to establishing new schemes.
“EPR Schemes can be effective when they involve recyclers or their representatives in their governance bodies, thereby providing an expertise that manufacturers typically lack. They also have an instrumental role in bringing together manufacturers and recyclers through effective eco-modulation of fees that promote recyclability and recycled content,” says Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General of EuRIC, the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation. “Good examples exist with respect to end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) and industrial packaging, yet other notable Schemes pose a fundamental risk to recycling investments,” he added.
European recyclers argue that EPR Schemes should only be established where collection and treatment costs are adequately assessed and exceed the economic value of the waste stream. This includes deciding on appropriate governance, an organisational or operational role, and whether alternative policy instruments could be implemented. Recyclers, rather than EPR schemes, should retain ownership of the waste stream to maintain their ability to invest and scale up recycling, otherwise this will further erode the competitiveness of recycled over extracted raw materials.