Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is Coming to Australia
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Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is Coming to Australia

22nd Apr 2024 - 3 min read
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is Coming to Australia

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi

What this means for Australian businesses, how they can navigate new regulations and leverage strategic opportunities

The concepts of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and product stewardship have both been gaining momentum worldwide and are poised to make a significant impact in Australia.

Various Australian industries have had voluntary product stewardship programs in place for some time. But, whereas stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law, extended producer responsibility is a mandatory type of product stewardship required by law.

With insiders claiming that EPR will be the central framework for the tough new packaging regulations announced by Tanya Plibersek last year, Australian businesses will have to become a fast study on the concept and its implications.

What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

EPR is a policy approach in which producers are held accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products, especially at the end-of-life. This means producers are responsible for collecting, recycling, or disposing of products after consumer use.

With EPR legislation, the aim is to incentivise producers to design products that are easier to recycle, reuse, or repair, thereby reducing waste and promoting a shift towards a circular economy.

Understanding Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility mandates that producers take on the responsibility for managing the disposal of products they manufacture.

It's based on the "polluter pays" principle, putting the onus on producers to consider the environmental impacts of their products throughout their lifecycle. EPR programs are designed to reduce overall packaging waste, enhance the recyclability and reusability of packaging, and curb plastic pollution leaking into natural environments.

Ideally, the funds raised from tariffs or fees are ring-fenced and then reinvested into recycling, waste management, and infrastructure.

Why EPR Matters for Australian Businesses

As global awareness and legislative actions towards sustainable practices grow, Australian businesses are expected to encounter new regulations that will enforce EPR.

These changes are not just about compliance; they represent a shift towards more sustainable business practices that could offer competitive advantages for first movers.

For businesses, the implications of an impending EPR scheme are profound, impacting everything from product design to material selection and end-of-life management.

Compliance with New Regulations

With countries around the world, including members of the European Union and Singapore, already implementing stringent EPR frameworks, Australian businesses should be poised for systems change.

This will likely involve the introduction of new laws requiring companies to report and pay fees based on the amount and type of packaging they produce.

These regulations will encourage businesses to reduce the use of virgin materials, simplify and reduce the number of materials used, and increase the use of recyclable content.

Financial Implications

EPR schemes typically involve eco-modulated fees, meaning that fees will vary based on the environmental impact of the materials used in packaging.

Products that are harder to recycle or contain hazardous materials may incur higher fees. This presents a financial incentive for companies to redesign products with sustainability in mind, potentially reducing costs in the long term while aligning with global sustainability trends.

Innovation in Product Design

The push for EPR will likely spur innovation in product and packaging design.

Companies will need to think creatively about how to design products that minimise waste, enhance recyclability, and reduce environmental impact. This will help facilitate significant advancements in materials science and product design, positioning businesses that innovate early as leaders in their markets.

Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations

To effectively manage the lifecycle of their products, businesses may need to form new partnerships with waste management firms, recycling companies, independent guides and advisors such as Phantm, and other stakeholders in the circular economy. These collaborations can help businesses manage the logistics of collection and recycling and ensure compliance with EPR regulations.

Reputation and Consumer Preference

As consumers become more environmentally conscious, they increasingly prefer to buy from companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

By proactively adopting EPR principles, businesses can enhance their brand reputation, ladder their brand above competitors to attract environmentally conscious consumers, and potentially enjoy increased customer loyalty.

Preparing for EPR in Australia

To navigate the forthcoming EPR regulations, Australian businesses should start preparing now.

Here are some steps to consider:

  • Audit Current Practices: Evaluate current product designs, packaging solutions, and waste management practices to identify areas for improvement in accordance with EPR principles. A Phantm assessment is the best place to start.
  • Engage with Stakeholders: Start conversations with suppliers, customers, and recycling partners to explore collaborative approaches to EPR compliance.
  • Invest in R&D: Consider investing in research and development to explore new materials and designs that reduce environmental impact and comply with EPR regulations. Phantm's Solutions Lab is helping brands such as Thankyou Group with this.
  • Monitor Global Trends: Keep an eye on international EPR developments and learn from global best practices to anticipate changes in Australian regulations.
  • Develop a Compliance Strategy: Prepare for potential EPR fees and regulatory requirements by developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes budgeting for fees and investing in sustainable strategies and practices.

Extended Producer Responsibility is more than just a regulatory challenge; it's an opportunity for Australian businesses to lead the way in sustainability. By embracing EPR, companies can not only comply with upcoming laws but also drive innovation, enhance their reputations, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable economy.

Phantm was created to make sustainability easy and to remove the guesswork that is inherrent to this kind of systems change.

As Australia moves closer to implementing these regulations, Phantm is here to help businesses anticipate and prepare for the changes so that they are optimally positioned to thrive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Filed under: Regulations

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