A waste management approach that is gaining currency in Canada is the concept of the producers of products being responsible for their end-of-life management. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of its life cycle. Through a Canada-wide Action Plan (CAP) for EPR, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is seeking to provide guidance on the development and implementation of EPR programs, to strengthen the use of EPR as an environmental risk-management tool and to contribute to the harmonization and consistency of programs across the country.
A CCME CAP for EPR would seek the adoption by producers of full life-cycle cost accounting for their products. This would see the costs of the end-of-life management of products treated similarly to other factors of production and incorporated into wholesale and retail product prices. Successful EPR shifts the expenses associated with product end-of-life management from taxpayers to producers and consumers and reduces the amount of waste generated and going to disposal. In addition the Action Plan seeks to reduce the toxicity and environmental risks from products and product waste and improve the overall life-cycle performance of products, including reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadian jurisdictions would agree to consider developing EPR framework legislation and/or to allow for action on the identified priority products and materials. The plan seeks to have the following products and materials incorporated into operational programs within a set time frame (e.g., six years) of the adoption of the CAP (Phase 1):
· Printed materials
· Compact fluorescents and other lamps containing mercury
· Electronics and electrical products
· Household hazardous and special wastes
· Automotive products
The following products and materials could be incorporated into operational programs within a set time frame (e.g., eight years) of the adoption of the CAP (Phase 2):
· Construction and Demolition materials
· Textiles and carpet
· Appliances, including ozone-depleting substances (ODS)
Key Performance Indicators
A number of key performance indicators have been identified to produce a national annual status report on the performance of the priority EPR programs. These include: kilograms per capita captured or recovered; dollars per kilogram captured or recovered; per cent of waste captured, per cent of waste recovered; and avoided greenhouse gas emissions.
Model EPR Program
In order to facilitate the creation of consistent and harmonious EPR regulations and programs, the discussion paper outlines a number of common elements that set out recommendations for all EPR programs to ensure common interpretation and application. These elements include consideration of the responsibilities of designated producers and producer responsibility organizations, relationship to stewardship plans, the establishment of targets and reporting mechanisms, the creation of fees and design for environment.
The EPR program elements are designed so that through a successful EPR program, and the regulations which mandate it, cost and management signals are given to producers to improve the life-cycle performance of their products knowing that at some point in the future they will be responsible for the collection, recycling and the environmentally sound management of products that would otherwise be discarded.
Supportive Policies and Regulations
In a complex and competitive national and global business market signals to producers from a relatively small market like Canada may not be strong enough alone to influence new environmentally conscious product design and supply chain management. The environmental objectives of EPR may therefore need to be supported and reinforced by other measures, such as: eco-labelling; restrictions on toxic substances; recycled content standards and regulations; green procurement policies; environmental performance/voluntary agreements and a variety of other potential standards, bans, guidelines and educational tools.
A National Harmonized Approach
The purpose of a CAP for EPR would be to extend the principle of producer responsibility across the country in a consistent and harmonized way and maximized across the national marketplace. By shifting the responsibility for the end-of-life management of products to the manufacturer and/or importer of that product, effects will be felt throughout the product life cycle. This provides incentives to producers and importers to design their products with less environmental risk, reduced use of toxic and hazardous substances, enhanced ease of product disassembly and other factors reducing their products’ overall environmental footprint.
For more information, visit www.ccme.ca