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The role of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in sustainable waste management


Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a waste management strategy that is designed to have the costs of reuse, redesign, recycling, composting and disposal included in the product’s retail price. EPR therefore is a policy framework meant to help in the creation of sustainable systems that reuse the materials used in trade to their best and highest use (Sachs 2006; Myers 2000). EPR in its foundation encourages reuse, redesign and recycling of packaging and products. The system shifts funding and occasionally, management of the program from the local governments to producers and their customers. EPR system has be described as; (1) shifting financial and management responsibility to the producer with government oversight, and (2) providing producers with incentives to integrate environmental considerations into the designs of their packaging and products (Fishbein, Ehrenfeld & Young 2000). Therefore, this research proposal seeks to establish how successful the EPR system as an option for sustainable waste management is.


Problem statement

The successful of EPR systems is determined by a number of factors among them, an effective collection system, goodwill from the various players especially the consumers being responsible, effective government oversight, and adoption of the appropriate disposal mechanism (Fishbein et al. 2000). The challenge however is that, these factors don’t often interplay thus frustrating the success of EPR systems and thus, their sustainability.



  1. To determine the sustainability of EPR systems in the UK
  2. To determine the design of EPR schemes
  3. To establish the key achievement and opportunities for EPR systems
  4. To determine the challenges and constraints of EPR systems


Literature review

EPR in the European Union (EU)  is described as being a recommended policy and thus, all member states have implemented EPR schemes on all the four waste streams which the EU Directives outline for EPR policies application; end-of-life vehicles, electrical and electrical equipments, packaging, and batteries (Lenzen et al. 2007). In addition, a number of countries in the European region have adopted EPR schemes for products that are not included in the EU Directives for example, tires, oil, graphic paper, and medical waste.

In North America, Canada and United States EPR schemes are designed to cover quite a large number of products and the schemes are primarily developed and implemented at a sub-national level i.e. by states and provinces (Fishbein et al. 2000; Lenzen et al. 2007; OECD 2001). In Canada, the Canada-wide plan for EPR lays emphasis on an outcome-driven EPR model and it is credited for the success of EPR schemes in the country that are governed and implemented by the provisional governments through a collective responsibility principal. In the US, there country lacks a federal law for EPR; therefore individual states have formulated and implemented their EPR policies. This model is credited for the fact that, the various state-specific policies are accustomed to address the individual state’s local conditions for waste and politics. There has been over 70 EPR laws enacted in the US between 1991 and 2011, and these on a general outlook require manufacturers to use EPR systems, but they don’t offer specific waste recycling targets (Lenzen et al. 2007). In parallel, manufacturers in the US have individually applied voluntary schemes and stewardships for the organization of collection and recycling systems for their waste.

Staniskis (2005) argues that EPR waste management systems cannot be the same across sectors and regions because of the non-universality of the wastes, topography, and social organization. Because of these varying conditions, it is important that EPR schemes are designed to ensure that the conditions are successfully met. In addition, waste management systems in general have to be flexible as to accommodate the changing political, economic, social, and environmental conditions (Scharfe 2010; McDougall et al. 2001). The success and sustainability of waste management depends on a number of process which interplay thus, it is only logical that an EPR schemes should be designed holistically and not with competing alternatives (Staniskis 2005; Purcell & Magette 2010).

Largely, there exists a literature gap on the sustainability of EPR programs. As far as the review of this study is concerned, there isn’t literature that addresses the practical sustainability of EPR schemes in waste management.


Theoretical framework

The above literature review points towards the idea that majority of the developed countries have by policy adopted and implemented EPR schemes either at federal or state level. That notwithstanding, EPR schemes require an integration of various players for success, which challenges its sustainability (Bastianoni 2004; Gallego and Lenzen 2005). The analytical approach towards the challenges and constraints facing EPR schemes against the opportunities and achievements is one way to determine the sustainability of EPR systems.



A descriptive-qualitative research methodology is adopted. The research will utilize literature that addresses the theme of the paper, case study, and interview of officials from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). While literature will be done without location restriction, the case study and interviews will be carried out in UK, in London. The case study will be done for a large-scale IT store in the city with the tools used being interviews, observation, and review of records (Rodrigues and Giljum 2005; Rodrigues 2006).

The data collected will be analyzed through both content analysis and grounded analysis methods (Rodrigues 2006). While interview and case study will be analyzed through a grounded analysis strategy, literature review will be done through content analysis to allow for objective analysis that sticks to the study objective.


Expected findings

It is expected that the study findings will indicate on how EPR schemes have fared in the management of waste in the UK and elsewhere through evaluation of the achievements. In addition, study findings will indicate the opportunities available for EPR systems thus, the relevance and continued use of EPR schemes in waste management. On the other hand, the challenges and constraints and their weight is an indication of the continued success or otherwise of EPR systems. A review of literature is an essential part of the research as it is expected to provide the study with the views and opinions of other researchers on the field on the success and sustainability of EPR systems. All these are expected to provide a basis for drawing a firm conclusion on the sustainability of EPR waste management schemes.



Waste management is a key part in any social human setting. EPR being one of the methods available for waste management has been adopted widely by both governments and individual manufacturers. However, the sustainability of this waste management option is not guaranteed. The successful completion of this study is expected to go a long way in determining the sustainability of EPR schemes in waste management, though establish of its achievements so far, the opportunities available and comparing these with the challenges and the constraints that face the schemes.



  1. Bastianoni S, Pulselli FM and Tiezzi E, (2004). The problem of assigning responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. Ecological Economics 49, 253-57.
  2. Fishbein BK, Ehrenfeld J & Young JE, (2000). Extended producer responsibility: A materials policy for the 21st century.
  3. Gallego B and Lenzen M (2005). A consistent input-output formulation of consumer and producer responsibility. Economic Systems Research 17(4), 365-91.
  4. Lenzen M, Murray J, Sack F and Wiedmann T, (2007). Shared producer and consumer responsibility – theory and practice. Ecological Economics 61, 27-42.
  5. McDougall FR, White PR, Franke M & Hindle P, (2001). Integrated solid waste management: a life cycle inventory (2nd). Blackwell.
  6. Myers N, (2000). “Sustainable consumption: The meta-problem.” Brian, H., Jennifer, K., (Eds.) In Towards Sustainable Consumption: A European Perspective. The Royal Society: London, UK.
  7. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2001). Extended Producer Responsibility: A Guidance Manual for Governments. Paris, France: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  8. Purcell M & Magette WL, (2010). Attitudes and behaviour towards waste management in the Dublin, Ireland region. Waste management (New York, N.Y.), 30(10), 1997-2006. Elsevier Ltd. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2010.02.021
  9. Rodrigues J and Giljum S, (2005). The accounting of indirect material requirements in material flow based indicators. Journal of Environmental Economics (ICFAI) 3, 51-69.
  10. Rodrigues J, Domingos T, Giljum S and Schneider F, (2006). Designing an indicator of environmental responsibility. Ecological Economics, in press.
  11. Sachs N, (2006). Planning the funeral at the birth: Extended producer responsibility in the European Union and the United States. Harvard Environmental Law Review, 30(51).
  12. Scharfe D (2010). Integrated Waste Management Plan. Centre & South Hastings Waste Services Board/Waste Diversion Ontario and Stewardship Ontario.
  13. Staniškis J (2005). Integrated Waste Management: Concept and Implementation. Environmental research, engineering and management, 3(33), 40-46.

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