With a population of over 500 million, and 28 Member States, the European Union (EU) makes up more than seven per cent of the world’s population and creates about 3 billion tonnes of waste annually1. It’s both the birthplace of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and the cradle that nurtured it. Thomas Lindhqvist first introduced the EPR concept in a report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment in 1990, while Germany put the principle into practice in 1991 with the introduction of its Packaging Protocol.
The European Union (EU) first introduced measures to manage packaging waste in the early 1980s, with a directive covering beverage containers. This failed to harmonize national policies, however, and resulted in some cross-border problems around the sale of secondary raw materials. Consequently, individual Member States began to craft their own legislation.
In the early 1990s, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers responded with Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste. Its goal was to harmonize national measures and to promote a balanced recycling market across Member States.
THREE PERSPECTIVES ON THE DIRECTIVE
Although the EU Directive applies to all Member States, individual countries are free to achieve recovery and recycling targets as they wish. As a result of business, cultural, economic and geographic differences, divergent stakeholder views and consumer habits, there are variances in EPR execution across Europe. One size of EPR does not fit all and, as a result, recycling programs have responded to national idiosyncrasies and grown in the direction that best suits individual environments. For example, recycling in the Netherlands has come full circle, from a municipal tax-based system, through producer responsibility to a federal tax-based system…and may well change again.
The different methods of putting the EU Directive into practice amongst the Member States can be broadly categorized as follows:
||1. Single Organization Model: Certain EU countries operate a single national compliance program. For example, in Belgium, FOSTPlus is the only organization accredited by the authorities to manage the recovery and recycling of household packaging nationwide. This monopoly system is the approach favoured by The Packaging Recovery Organization Europe (PRO EUROPE). The Belgian model is not-for-profit.
||2. Competing Collective Model: Examples of a competitive recycling marketplace can be found in Austria, where there are two competing organizations, and Germany, where as many as ten schemes are in operation, picking up recycling from multiple jurisdictions. The largest organization in Germany is the former monopoly Duales System Deutschland GmbH. These operations are generally for-profit.
||3. Hybrid Model: The UK has been a competitive marketplace since 1997, with 40+ compliance schemes, many of which are regional. The UK system involves a hybrid of Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) and Residential targets, and the emphasis on collection of packaging is IC&I facilities. The UK approach also divides the cost of EPR within the supply chain, so that it is shared between packaging suppliers, fillers and retailers. The producer obligation is fulfilled through the Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN)3 system. The majority of the UK schemes are for-profit.
The EU Directive focuses on packaging, in contrast to many Canadian recycling programs, which combine Packaging and Printed Paper collection—with Printed Paper often leading the pack of recyclables in terms of recovery rates. This means that, although some European countries include various forms of Printed Paper in their national programs, this is by no means universal, and individual schemes lack the comprehensive nature of Canada’s Packaging and Printed Paper initiatives.
Canada leads other jurisdictions when it comes to making recycling data publically available. Fee calculation models have also reached a level of sophistication that is not seen elsewhere in the world—with material incentives and rate balancing designed for an equitable spread of costs.
New recycling techniques are beginning to emerge for pouch packaging—the plastic/aluminum laminate that is used increasingly in pouches that are designed to make use of lighter weight packaging materials. Backed by food giants Kraft and Nestle, the UK’s Enval is moving towards commercialization:
World-first pouch recycling tech takes leap toward commercialization
We’re also seeing greater collaboration at the interface between producers and recyclers—reducing the need for intermediaries and creating a mutual understanding of packaging and recycling opportunities, as well as challenges. The Packaging Association of Canada’s Pac Next initiative brings together producers, stewardship organizations and service providers to optimize recycling systems. Their Packaging Materials Recovery Systems Map helps package designers, decision makers and manufacturers understand the flow of packaging materials through the current collection and recovery systems, and the impact that design and material choices can have on overall recycling and recovery rates.
For information about EPR and Stewardship Services in Canada, please contact: Chris van Rossem at: CvanRossem@cssalliance.ca
3. Packaging Waste Recovery Notes. These documents are issued by accredited reprocessors to show that a tonne of waste packaging material has been recovered and recycled into a new product. The reprocessor can sell the PRN to obligated companies or their EPR services representative, who use it to prove that a tonne of their packaging material has been recycled.