EPR schemes will harm recycling sector if not designed correctly, says industry group

EPR schemes must be designed in such a way that they do not disrupt existing efficient markets, otherwise they will do more harm than good to the recycling industry, according to a new position paper on extended producer responsibility (EPR) published by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), a global federation of recycling industries, on 20 November.

BIR stressed that, when and where EPR schemes are considered an absolute necessity, recyclers must be involved in the governance bodies of such schemes to ensure an appropriate balance of interests among the most relevant stakeholders in the value chain.

“BIR supports policy instruments to increase circularity, but it is imperative that EPR schemes must not disrupt existing efficient markets,” said BIR President Susie Burrage OBE. “They should be set up only when there is a need and only once the effectiveness and the intrinsic value of a material stream have been assessed.”

The group said that policymakers should first consider other policy instruments to increase circularity, such as making design for recycling mandatory and setting legally-binding recycled content targets. These measures can help to increase demand for recycled materials and level the playing field with extracted raw materials.

Preserving free and fair competition for the recycling industry is vital because recycled materials are subject to market complexities, such as supply and demand, and EPR schemes could disrupt efficient markets if not designed correctly,” said the document.

“BIR stands ready to engage with policymakers and authorities in their efforts to increase recycling rates and circularity,” said BIR Director General Arnaud Brunet. “We believe that a well-designed EPR scheme, when necessary and combined with other policy instruments, can play a role in achieving a more circular economy.”