Solid Waste & Recycling

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The relative economic efficiency of shared responsibility vs. EPR


“Shared responsibility” is firmly entrenched in Ontario’s printed paper and packaging (Blue Box) recycling lexicon. It is therefore not surprising that to many “full responsibility” means 100% producer funding of the Blue Box.

In the linked policy brief I suggest that full producer responsibility is more than just financial responsibility but producer self-determinacy and the discretion to design reverse supply chains for recovering, reusing and recycling printed-paper and packaging.

The brief begins by defining economic efficiency in the context of EPR and highlighting innovation as its essence. It goes on to describe the decisions that producers make (or are able to make) under shared responsibility and compares them them to decisions they make (or have a much better chance of making) under a principled application of EPR.

To be clear, this paper is neither a critique of producer packaging choices nor of existing municipal recycling efficiency. Rather, it is an analysis of the relationship between producer packaging choices and the current approach to recycling those choices in Ontario versus that in British Columbia (as Canada’s first EPR jurisdiction for printed paper and packaging).

It concludes by making the case that revisiting the fundamentals of EPR may provide for better environmental and financial outcomes.