To help in the fight against climate change, businesses have a responsibility to produce sustainable, non-hazardous and eco-friendly products. This isn’t necessarily a legal requirement, but we believe it should be. That’s why extended producer responsibility (EPR) is the next best thing. If you are selling products that cannot easily be recycled, then EPR schemes will ensure you have the means to extend the product’s life and to prevent it going to landfill and, ultimately, harming the environment.

What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

As the name suggests, EPR is the responsibility of anyone who manufactures, treats, imports or sells products – collectively known as the ‘producer’ – to ensure their product has the best possible end of life solution and to minimise the environmental impact on disposal. It can also be considered as a way of offsetting any environmental damage that was caused in the process of making it. Just like you might offset some of your carbon emissions by planting a tree, EPR is a way of counterbalancing any harmful effects that may happen during the product’s life span.

Extended producer responsibility.
Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations in the UK

Currently, the laws around producer responsibility in the UK are focused on businesses that produce and handle products such as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), batteries, end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and packaged goods (in this case, the packaging material needs to be considered). Currently, these businesses are lawfully required to fund a percentage of the recycling or end-of-life recovery of the item as opposed to the taxpayer. In effect, this means that anybody producing products in these industries are obliged to make every effort to minimise the environmental damage caused by them.

To go one step further, producers should be ensuring that their products are making a minimal amount of environmental damage, or, even better, none at all. They can do this right from initial design stages, making sure the product is manufactured using recyclable and sustainable materials. They could also educate consumers on how to recycle and re-use the product through clear labelling, or, minimise pollution in the transportation process.

Here are some of the other ways in which producers can ensure responsibility to the environment as proposed by Suez:

  • Sustainable development & design – producers have a responsibility to design and create products that use sustainable and recyclable materials. By considering these aspects in the initial design processes will ensure that quality and aesthetics are met while remaining eco-friendly.

  • Reward and penalties – there should be clear rewards for producers who meet the EPR regulations. By enforcing penalties on those who don’t meet these will encourage more and more manufacturers to create sustainable products.

  • Simplicity – to make sure that customers have access to easy and simple end-of-life solutions for products. Whether that’s through simple recycling solutions such as we offer here at First Mile or the resources to encourage reuse and the creation of something new.

Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility

In the UK, new reforms will implement EPR for packaging and packaging waste from 2024, hot on the heels of the Plastic Packaging Tax that was introduced in April 2022. Packaging extended producer responsibility will look to collect payments from producers for dealing with household packaging waste and the packaging that local authorities collect from street bins. While this won't address the issue of commercially collected packaging waste, options for collecting payments are being explored with a view to informing a review of EPR in the next few years.

Why Should Your Business implement EPR?

By becoming an extended producer responsibility organisation, you’ll be contributing to a greener and brighter future. For your customers, it’ll leave them feeling guilt-free and confident that they aren’t contributing to the climate crisis. This will ultimately make them trust you more. A happy customer makes for a happy business, right?

And, as we move into a more eco-conscious future, those companies who don’t move with it will be left behind. That’s why you should take action today.

Is Extended Producer Responsibility effective?

Early adoption by large organisations and the commitment from the UK government to extended producer responsibility schemes would seem to show that EPR is, and is likely to become even more, effective. A key part of the commitment to achieve net-zero by 2050, and with people more minded towards sustainable consumption and demanding more action on waste management and recycling targets, there seems to be a lot of momentum behind extended producer responsibility and what it can achieve.

How Can First Mile Help You with Your EPR?

Here at First Mile, we can work with you to create the best end-of-life solutions for your products. We are passionate about providing zero-to-landfill waste disposal to our customers. We do this by taking your non-recycled items (as well as your recyclables, of course) and depositing them at an energy from waste facility. Instead of going to landfill, your rubbish will be burned to create energy and building materials. We’ll always encourage you to recycle in every way that you can, but for those that absolutely cannot be re-used, we’ll handle it for you.

We’ll also make it easy for your consumers too. We’ll help you make it simple for your customers to recycle your products and give them a new life. Click here to find out more.

Alternatively, you can contribute to EPR by sponsoring one of our RecyleBox categories. This will ensure that recycling is absolutely free to your customer while keeping good on your promise to the environment.