Extended Producer Responsibility


EPR Programs Today

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that calls on manufacturers to steward the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. By holding producers accountable for a product’s end-of-life impact, EPR policies encourage producers to (1) redesign products for the environment, and (2) work with retailers, users, and disposers to develop viable, cost-effective solutions.

Why EPR?

The management of product remains is a daunting challenge. In the U.S. today, 75% of waste is throwaway products and packaging. Despite ever-increasing recycling capabilities,these waste streams keep growing. Local communities have been shouldered with the burden of cleaning up after producers and consumers.

EPR recognizes that manufacturers are best positioned to reduce the environmental impacts of their own products. Forward thinking companies realize that EPR represents a substantial business opportunity. By rethinking their products and how they are packaged and shipped, their relationships with the supply chain, and the ultimate customer, some manufacturers are dramatically increasing their productivity, reducing costs, fostering product and market innovation, and providing customers with greater value and less environmental impact. These industry leaders understand that corporate citizenship and resource productivity are essential to maintaining competitive advantage and increasing shareholder wealth. (Source: www.epa.gov/osw/partnerships/stewardship/basic.html)

How It Works.

Under EPR, producer arranges for the reuse, buy-back, or recycling program, waste-to-energy production or disposal of their products. The producer may choose to delegate responsibility to a third party, a so-called producer responsibility organization (PRO), which is paid by the producer for spent-product management. In this way, EPR shifts responsibility for waste from government to private industry, obliging producers to integrate waste management costs into their product prices and to ensure the sustainable and safe handling of the remains of their products and associated packaging.

A Brief History.

EPR had its beginnings with the “bottle bills” of the 1970s and 1980s. Bottle bills require beverage companies to take back their empty containers and recycle them. During the 1990s, there was renewed interest in this approach. Laws were passed in Canada and European countries requiring producers to take back hazardous leftovers such as paint, pesticides, motor oil, and medications. Since 2000, new laws in North America require producers to set up programs to recycle computers, televisions and other electronic equipment. As of October 2010, over 30 states have at least one EPR law in place. The state of Maine has five. So far this year, over 50 new EPR bills have been introduced.

EPR Today

As EPR initiatives expand across the U.S., reuse and recycling have become essential to a broad array of industry sectors: automotive, electronics, carpet and household goods, pesticides, paint and more. Industry associations are working to respond to EPR policies:

• EPA\'s Design for the Environment (DfE) works in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia to reduce risk to people and the environment. Through partnership projects, DfE has evaluated traditional and alternative chemicals and processes in a range of industries, most particularly those that are chemical intensive.

• The Grocery Manufacturer\'s Association announced plans to eliminate 2.5B pounds of packaging by 2020.

• The consumer battery manufacturers are working to design a program for the collection of used batteries.

• The consumer electronics industry leaders launched the first-ever industry-wide electronics recycling initiative to recycle one billion pounds of electronics annually by 2016 (CEA).

• The carpet industry has formed a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Their goal: 40% landfill diversion by the year 2012.

Clearly, EPR is driving a sea change in how companies are designing and managing their core business. The transition can be challenging and many companies have limited understanding of end-of-life challenges and opportunities.

How Waste Management Can Help.

Waste Management is a valuable resource for companies looking to adopt EPR strategies. Waste Management offers solutions and services to manage your product’s end-of-life:

• Extensive end-of-life options

Waste Management can help you identify opportunities to reprocess products, returned products and product elements back to your supply chain, and converted product remains to valuable energy resources. Specific offerings include customer mail-back programs, waste-to-resource technologies, andmore. We can design the best mix to address your unique situation.

• High-impact channel engagement

Our EPR programs leverage the power of the Web and new point-of-use technologies such as automated recycling machines to fully engage all of your constituents - from channel partners right down to the consumer. As a result, we help extend your brand and build loyalty.

• Confident marketing and promotion

While many organizations publicly inflate their environmental activities, Waste Management provides complete program accreditation/certification. This means you can promote your waste management efforts with greater confidence and effectiveness.

For more information, contact Waste Management Sustainability Services at 877-441-3046 or visit our website at WMSustainabilityServices.com.

About the Author

Waste Management

Waste Management, Inc. is North America's leading provider of integrated environmental solutions. We partner with our customers and communities to manage and reduce waste from collection to disposal while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy.

Our 45,000 employees are committed to Environmental Performance — our mission to maximize resource value, while minimizing environmental impact so that both our economy and our environment can thrive. Serving over 20 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers, Waste Management posted $12.52 billion of revenues in 2010.

Drawing on our resources and experience, we actively pursue projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, the communities we serve and the environment.

• Waste Management uses waste to create enough energy to power more than 1 million homes every year. By 2020, we expect to double that output, creating enough energy to power more than 2 million homes.

• As North America’s largest recycler, Waste Management managed more than 7 million tons of recyclable commodities in 2009. By the year 2020, we expect to increase the amount of material we manage to more than 20 million tons per year.

• By the end of 2009, Waste Management had 119 landfill-gas-to-energy projects producing 540 megawatts of power, the equivalent of powering approximately 400,000 homes.

• At the end of 2009, we had more than 800 natural gas-powered trucks in our fleet, with plans to add 200 more in 2010. During the year, we also used technology to reduce the fuel burn of every truck in our fleet. When fully implemented, this is expected to save 9 million gallons of fuel per year.

• Our wholly owned subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy plants and five independent power production facilities in the U.S. that generate enough energy to power more than 900,000 homes.

• Through a joint venture with the Linde Group, we have built a plant that converts landfill gas into liquefied natural gas for use as fuel in our trucks. The facility is currently producing 13,000 gallons per day.

• At the end of 2009, we had a total of 73 WHC-certified sites. We also set a goal to have 25,000 acres dedicated solely to nature preservation by 2020, and we have nearly reached that goal: at year-end, we had 24,000 protected acres.