Although the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has received increased attention in the Maldivian context only in the last year, it is by no means a new concept.
The recycling markets that existed in the 1980s, especially for high-value plastic products, could not handle the ever-increasing volumes and complexity of plastics, so local governments had to take responsibility (OECD, 2016).
To remove this burden from individual municipalities, EPR was recognized for the first time in the late 1980s as an established principle of environmental policy. From 2001 onwards, the OECD offered a platform to exchange good practice examples and to analyse common challenges (OECD, 2016).
|Functions and scope of EPR systems|
|EPR was introduced to tackle||Including|
|Growing volumes of waste||Packaging waste|
|Rising costs of waste collections for residents||Electronic waste|
|Loss of valuable natural resources||Portable batteries, etc.|
Table 1. Functions and scope of EPR systems. Own presentation.
OECD (2016) defines EPR as an
“environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle.”
But not only the producers bear the responsibility: In markets like the Maldives, most plastic packaging is imported, so importers and wholesalers must also be held responsible for proper waste management in the country.
The extent to which and, above all, the role played by these obligated industries in an EPR system will always depend on country-specific factors and, above all, on the chosen set-up of the system.
It should be decided whether the EPR system should be mandatory or voluntary. Although voluntary initiatives by the private sector are a good way to gain initial experience in specific waste management-related topics, they are very much geared to the interests and standards of individual companies and may fail to implement a large-scale system for collection, sorting and recycling in the long term (Prevent Waste Alliance, 2020).
Furthermore, it has to be determined whether the system is supported by individual or joint producer responsibility. In a collective system, a new third party, a producer responsibility organization (PRO),
must be introduced into the market to fulfill the obligations of producers in exchange for a financial or technical consideration.
The PRO is considered the most important stakeholder in a collective EPR system and manages the construction, development and maintenance of the system as well as the take-back obligations for the responsible producers/importers. The interlinkage of the PRO with other stakeholders is displayed in Figure 1:
Figure 1. Activities of a PRO. Source: Prevent Waste Alliance (2020)
|Different EPR set-up possibilities|
The system lays down specific tasks through legislations (e.g. collection targets, recycling rates).
The government refrains from enforcing legislation on the condition that the private actors achieve a certain goal.
The producers take responsibility for the end-of-life management of their own products. This requires individual administrative capacities
The producers work collectively to exert their responsibility. They mandate a third party, a so-called Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs), to conduct/coordinate collection on their behalf.
A single, usually non-profit, organization (PRO) is coordinating collection and recycling in a centralized fashion
Multiple, usually for-profit, organizations (PROs) compete for customers (producers). This approach may (should) be supported by coordination bodies collectively established by the PROs.
The system is established by companies, associations or other organizations from the private sector and usually supervised by public authorities to ensure they fulfil their roles and responsibilities.
The system is being run by a public authority, usually as part of a department within a ministry. The EPR fees are mostly collected within a central fund.
Table 2. Different EPR set-ups. Own presentation.
The adequate functioning of an EPR system is, next to the responsible stakeholders, ensured by four broad categories of EPR policy instruments (OECD, 2016):
- Product-take-back requirements:
- Assigning responsibility for the end of life management of the obliged industy´s products through recycling and collection targets of a material (voluntary/mandatory).
- Incentives for consumers to return used products.
- Economic and market-based instruments:
- Financial incentives to implement EPR policy
- Regulation and performance standards:
- E.g. considering the minimum recycled content. When used in combination with tax such standards can strengthen incentives for redesign of products.
- Information based instruments:
- Supporting EPR schemes by raising public awareness.