Key Ingredients for an Effective Full Producer Responsibility Program

Full producer responsibility has been recognized as one of the most effective mechanisms to improve recycling rates, reduce litter and create the conditions to incent efficiency and reduce costs for end-of-life management of packaging and paper products (PPP). The following is an overview of core principles that CSSA seeks to realize when developing EPR programs; certain characteristics, that if in place, increase the long-term success of a program; and finally, the key components of a robust EPR program framework.

Core Principles

CSSA has identified a set of core principles which, when incorporated into the design of a full producer responsibility program, can contribute significantly to its success:

  • Producers are fully responsible. Financial and operational responsibility for the management of their PPP goes hand in hand under EPR.
  • Recycling must be easy and convenient for consumers. The same basket of goods should be collected everywhere. The list of collected materials should be standardized across the province (and across the country to extent possible) to achieve economies of scale, program efficiencies and to provide clarity for residents/consumers.
  • Producers must have the autonomy to design a recycling system that respects local conditions (e.g., geography, population densities etc.) while driving efficiency and optimizing environmental performance.
  • Regulations must be designed for fairness. A level playing field is necessary to ensure that all obligated producers participate and regulators must be prepared to take appropriate enforcement action against free-riders.
  • Small business should not be unduly burdened. A reasonable de minimis should be established below which businesses should not be required to report or pay fees. Flat fees should be offered for those businesses that do not fall below the de minimis but are still under a certain revenue threshold.
  • Materials must pay their own way in the recycling system. Higher value materials should not cross-subsidize lower value materials.
  • Healthy competition must be fostered by employing best practices in the procurement of waste management/environmental services.
  • Stewardship program operators and service providers are held accountable meaning operators, collectors, transporters, recyclers and processors of end-of-life products/materials are auditable and accountable for their performance.
  • Appropriate standards are established so that collectors, transporters, recyclers and processors are able to demonstrate compliance with international, federal and provincial laws and industry standards’ where applicable.
  • Stewardship programs must be committed to continuous improvement—fostering responsible recycling and achieving higher recycling rates over time.

Roles of Key Players under Successful EPR Programs  

  • Governments set clear policy objectives, establish regulatory frameworks, specify targets/outcomes, approve program plans, monitor progress and enforce compliance. Some of these activities can be delegated to an oversight body if legislation provides for one.
  • Municipalities continue to have a key role to play as the collection interface with residents, subject to their interest in staying in the game under EPR.
  • Industry takes the lead on the design and implementation of the program, including developing obligated material lists and definitions, standards to be met by service providers and producer fees.

Components of a Robust EPR Program Framework

  • Harmonize with other provinces to the extent possible to ensure consistency of:
    • Definitions for designated products and materials;
    • Definitions of obligated producers;
    • Approach to producer de minimis;
    • Program performance metrics including consistent terminology, definitions, data sources and calculation methodologies.
  • Focus on outcomes-based regulations.
    • Performance targets will drive program design and behaviour of marketplace, producers, consumers.
    • Allow producers to govern themselves. Regulations should specify reporting requirements, verification standards, but not matters relating to how an EPR program organizes itself.
  • Ensure there are competent resources to oversee program performance and to engage in compliance and enforcement.
    • Make the consequences for compliance failure clear and establish deterrents/penalties up front that exceed the cost of compliance.
    • This is generally, a shortfall in provincial legislation.
    • Regulations do not consider practical realities of enforcement, leaving regulators without sufficient tools to ensure that obligated marketplace actors respond to regulation in a consistent and disciplined way.
  • Allow sufficient time for stewardship plan development.
  • Multiple stakeholders need to be consulted and many interests require consideration (including producers, municipalities, private waste operator and ENGOs) in order to deliver a plan that can be approved with confidence.
  • Allow sufficient time for stewardship plan implementation.
    • The shorter the time for implementation, the less time is spent engaging with affected stakeholders and resolving issues.
    • Communicating with obligated producers and registering them into the program takes time.
    • Establishing commercial terms and agreements with municipalities and waste management service providers take time – they have constituencies that need to review and approve (Councils, management, etc.)