In this Packaging Digest exclusive, PAC NEXT identifies takeaways and surprises in the new, multi-continent Extended Producer Responsibility study the group conducted.
The study, entitled "Policy Best Practices that Support Harmonization: Summaries of Eleven Global Extended Producer Responsibility Programs" (see link at end of article), was created to help education and harmonization processes with a goal of resource recovery, reducing cost and regulatory complexity.
As one of the five initial projects focused on achieving the PAC NEXT vision of A World Without Packaging Waste, the founding members identified that a variety of global policies and legislative approaches existed to improve packaging material recovery, with mixed success.
Alan Blake, PAC NEXT executive director, stated that "While there is wide disagreement on the effectiveness and efficiency of EPR legislation, this project was designed to develop a fact-base of global best practices related to recovery solutions and EPR policies; to identify agreed-upon best practices that would support industry and government collaborative efforts to create harmonized solutions for managing packaging waste in non-regulated or EPR legislated jurisdictions.
Blake responds to Packaging Digest’s questions in this exclusive Q&A:
What are your takeaways from the EPR study results?
Blake: Several PAC NEXT members who are financially impacted by Canadian EPR programs were particularly interested in discovering ways to reduce cost and regulatory complexity. As such, Printed Paper and Packaging (PPP) EPR programs in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia were compared with EPR programs in Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Australia.
The report identifies the following attributes for an optimized and harmonized EPR system:
• Residential, public and industrial, commercial and institutional (IC+I) sources
• All material types (including printed paper)
• Low cost/ton
• High collection and recycling rates
• High-value materials / high material quality (source separation an important factor)
• Program convenience
While preliminary data analysis focused primarily on EPR programs, the following policies were identified as complementary, playing an important role in increasing the performance of packaging collection and recycling systems:
• Pay as you throw (PAYT) programs
• Mandatory recycling requirements
• Landfill bans for recyclable materials
• Container deposit programs
What differences were discerned in the different regions that were studied?
Blake: There are several differences worth highlighting:
• Packaging EPR is legislated in Canada and Europe, but not in the U.S.
• Canada and U.S. use mainly single-stream curbside collection programs, whereas many European countries require source separation of materials curbside (paper& board, plastics+ metals + cartons, glass) which can generate cleaner, less contaminated materials for recycling.
• Europe has broad deployment of PAYT programs where consumers are obliged to pay for the various waste bags / bins which incentivizes increased recycling
• Europe generally has a more integrated waste management infrastructure where waste to energy is a more acceptable and important component given the higher population densities and lack of land for landfill.
What finding(s) most surprised you?
Blake: Perhaps not a surprise, but a realization that it is very difficult to make comparisons of EPR programs around the world when they are all so different—it does feel at times that you're trying to compare apples and oranges. And hence you need to be very careful in drawing absolute conclusions when it's perhaps more pragmatic to recognize best practices within a program that appear to be delivering good or better results for recovery and recycling.
What is the biggest challenge to EPR for consumers and CPG companies?
Blake: There are several opportunities here. Let's talk about consumers first. We live in a "throw-away" society where littering is endemic and there is an expectation that our cities will collect our garbage and clean-up after us. So, there is this ever present need for consistent and simple communication about keeping our neighborhoods tidy and safe, the importance of recycling (with clarity on what can and cannot be recycled) and creating less waste (re-using, refilling, repairing). The goal here is systemic behavior change where recycling becomes the norm.
For Consumer Packaged Goods Companies, there continues to be an enormous upside in talking about the value of packaging and how optimized package designs can actually lead to less waste (less packaging waste, less product waste, less food waste) and increased packaging recovery and recycling. This will require even more engagement across the entire packaging value chain and in particular with waste management companies to drive cost effective change.
Why wasn't the U.S. included in the study?
Blake: There are several reasons. Firstly, EPR is not legislated in the U.S. today and hence it would have been a tall order to survey all 50 US states for "best practices.” Secondly, AMERIPEN has recently published an excellent [4-page PDF format] report on their 100 Cities survey in the USA Unlocked Potential: A roadmap to improved packaging recovery.
Where do you see EPR heading in 2014?
Blake: In Canada, Printed Paper and Packaging (PPP) EPR programs will continue to be deployed across the provinces with British Columbia starting May 19th 2014 and followed by Saskatchewan January 1st 2015. The plan as laid out by the Canadian Council of Ministers for the Environment calls for all provinces to have a PPP EPR program deployed through 2015.
In Europe the Packaging & Packaging waste directive will be reviewed in an effort to further develop stable recycling markets and increase collection rates.
In U.S. the debate will continue for and against EPR across industry, NGO's and the 50 U.S. states…stay tuned for further developments.
As a reminder, what’s the PAC NEXT position on EPR?
Blake: EPR is the law in Canada and not the law in the U.S. In both instances, PAC NEXT is committed to working collaboratively across the packaging value chain to minimize recovery system costs while maximizing recycling rates, the value of recovered materials and minimizing the amount of valuable packing materials going to landfill. This is the goal that defines a set of core principles called "The PAC NEXT Way":
• Goal - To minimize recovery system costs while maximizing recycling rates and the value of recovered materials.
• The Materials – All materials must be recovered.
• Landfill bans - for ALL recyclable materials
• Recovery Hierarchy – Reduction, Recycling, Reuse, Up-Cycling, Composting and Energy-from-Waste are all acceptable solutions and should be part of an integrated waste management system.
• New Packaging – use PAC NEXT Designing for Packaging Optimization tools for all new packaging or the enhancement of existing packaging.
• New Materials Introduction Process –audit new materials using the PAC NEXT Decision Trees prior to commercialization.
• Harmonized Recovery – National policy regulations (in Canada) for the recovery of packaging materials must be harmonized federally, provincially and at the municipal level.
• Harmonized Reporting – Adoption of a national reporting system (in Canada e.g. Canadian Stewardships Services Alliance) to reduce administration costs and to improve the accuracy and timeliness of reporting.
• Standard of Service – Minimum and standardized level of service for all municipalities to improve participation and maximize potential recovery through convenience.
• Consumer Communications – Harmonized communications must be consistent from municipality to municipality. The plan needs to engage, educate and inform consumers on the recovery of packaging material.
To view or download the 88-page PDF of the PAC NEXT study, click here.
For more information, contact:
PAC NEXT Executive Director