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Extended Producer Responsibility

Zero Waste Scotland is currently supporting the Scottish Government in its work with the UK government to support a review of our extended producer responsibility systems.

What is extended producer responsibility?

The concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) is about ensuring that producers of products bear some or all of the responsibility for the environmental impacts that those products create. This can be through setting up mechanisms to take back certain products for re-use or recycling, or through charging systems that help pay for other organisations (such as local authorities) to deal with materials for recycling. EPR systems are also used to ensure hazardous materials are dealt with responsibly.

Do we have extended producer responsibility in Scotland?

We do already have EPR systems in Scotland – we share the same systems as the wider UK. There are 4 current system in operation covering packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), batteries and end of life vehicles (ELVs). The existing systems are currently being reviewed, starting with packaging and WEEE and Zero Waste Scotland will be providing expertise and guidance to the Scottish Government on how changes to EPR legislation can play a role in accelerating the circular economy in Scotland.

What stage is the review at?

At present, DEFRA is leading the review of packaging and waste electrical and electronic equipment EPR schemes. DEFRA published a summary of consultation responses in July and are continuing to work with devolved administrations to explore scheme options which will be published in a second consultation in 2020.

Zero Waste Scotland is working on behalf of the Scottish Government to help inform an ambitious and effective scheme that incorporates good practice from elsewhere while complementing Scotland’s wider environmental aims and objectives. The review of the packaging EPR scheme currently being conducted by DEFRA presents an opportunity to develop a programme that works for consumers, businesses and accelerates Scotland’s transition to a circular economy.

There is a growing interest in EPR as a mechanism that can influence the design, capture and recycling of a wide range of products and materials, including packaging. Reform of the current schemes provides an opportunity to significantly improve on existing measures to place Scotland and the UK at the forefront of EPR policy worldwide.

The packaging producer responsibility consultation states the primary objectives of the policy as:

  • Reducing the use of unnecessary and difficult-to-recycle packaging
  • Increasing the amount of packaging designed for optimal recyclability
  • Increasing the amount of packaging that is recycled
  • Increasing the amount of packaging made from recycled material
  • Reducing the amount of packaging that is littered

In addition to these aims, circular economy principals are a crucial aspect that Zero Waste Scotland will work to see included in any EPR scheme. Designing a system to keep materials in use for longer before being recycled into equivalent value products should be an integral part of the scheme. As part of this, the project design should consider end-of-life separation, recovery and recycling of materials into equivalent value products.

Zero Waste Scotland believes the EPR review has the potential to play a significant role in reducing the volume of waste produced through better design of a range of products we come into contact with across our everyday lives.  As an organisation, we look forward to playing an active role in the next stage of consultation.

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