Extended producer responsibility (hereinafter EPR) is a concept, which extends the producer’s responsibility for his product to the post-consumer phase of the product’s life cycle. Essential reasons for the implementation of EPR in the European Union (hereinafter EU) are the establishment of producer’s responsibility for the environmental impact his product has, to promote eco-design of products, to reduce the amounts of waste incinerated, buried or disposed of, and to increase the effectiveness of raw materials use by increasing the shares of re-used, recycled and recovered waste.
EPR in EU is defined in the Waste framework Directive, and represents the main tool of the EU in the implementation of the European waste hierarchy. Its implementation is mandatory in the area of waste electrical and electronic equipment, waste batteries and accumulators, and end-of-life vehicles. Member states (hereinafter MS) voluntarily implement in any waste stream, and in practice it is used, without exception, in the field of packaging waste.
In the field of EPR legislation in EU, the main regulatory acts are directives, which allow MS a wide field of choice regarding the method of implementing the concept. The directives have been successful in the area of prohibiting the use of dangerous substances in designing the products, and in the field of increasing shares of re-used, recovered and recycled waste. They were less successful however in the field of harmonization of national legislations of MS, which are, because of general and loosely defined definitions and essential concepts in the area of waste management, extremely diverse.
This leads to serious issues regarding the comparability of data reported by MS. Without a common methodology for calculating the amounts of products placed on the market, the amounts of waste collected, and the shares of recycled and recovered waste, it is not possible to recreate an accurate display of the legislation’s effectiveness in practice.
It is as well difficult to determine, if EU legislation has been effective in the area of eco-design. General and non-mandatory provisions in EU law are without a doubt hindering progress in the field.