The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final National Recycling Strategy, released yesterday, includes prominent mention of “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) as a prime example of programs that advance the “circular economy” by increasing “materials recovery at the state and local levels.”  The inclusion is notable in that EPR was not mentioned in earlier drafts of the agency’s recycling strategy, and is testament to the growing prominence of EPR programs at the state and international levels.

EPR is a broad policy concept that covers a range of programs that, as defined by EPA, “place a shared responsibility for end-of-life product management on producers and other entities involved in the product chain.”  Notable examples include the European Union End-of-Life Vehicles Directive, and various U.S. state requirements that govern products such as appliances, electronics, vehicle switches, batteries, paint, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and, of most recent note, product packaging.  (See my blog post on a recent EPR product packaging laws in Maine, Oregon, and elsewhere.)

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by design. It is a change to the linear model from which resources are mined, made into products, and then thrown away. A circular economy reduces materials use, redesigns materials and products to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.

– EPA National Recycling Strategy

While the National Recycling Strategy provides no details on appropriate elements of the design and structure of EPR programs, it emphasizes that “governments need to know when to use them and what conditions make them successful. Efforts under this area aim to increase coordination, availability and accessibility of information on recycling programs and policies at the federal, state, tribal and local levels.”

The strategy is likely to provide impetus for further adoption of EPR programs nationwide.

More information on EPA’s National Recycling Strategy is available here.