The total volume of material resources extracted or harvested worldwide reached nearly 60 billion metric tonnes (Gt) in 2007, a 65% increase from 1980 and an estimated 8 fold increase over the last century. Going for green growth and establishing a resource efficient economy is therefore a major environmental, development and macroeconomic challenge today.
In this context, putting in place policies that ensure sustainable materials management building on the principle of the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - is crucial. Sustainable materials management can help both to improve the environment, by reducing the amount of resources that human economic activity requires as well as diminishing the associated environmental impacts and minimising waste from production and consumption.
More broadly, resource efficiency policies can help to improve competitiveness, contribute to addressing resource security concerns and create growth and jobs, in addition to making an important contribution to environmental protection and resource conservation.
In many OECD countries, the concept of “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) has been an established principle of environmental policy since the middle of the 1990s. EPR is an environmental policy approach in which the responsibility of producers for their products is extended to include the social costs of waste management, including the environmental impact of waste disposal of their products.
In many countries, extended producer responsibility policies are playing an important role in supporting national resource efficiency strategies. While usually effective at transferring the financial burden for parts of waste management to the private sector, there is a risk that EPRs - when poorly implemented - may lead to sub-optimal levels of material recovery, absence of environmental incentives, excessive costs, disruption of existing material markets, as well as rent-seeking. Hence, there appears to be a significant need for guidance in the use of EPR schemes across major OECD and emerging market economies.
In order to address this need, OECD has launched work that aims to update and expand the OECD Guidance Manual for Governments on EPR that was last published in 2001, with recent country case studies and to analyse recent EPR policy experiences, from which policy guidance can be derived.