What is Extended Producer Responsibility, Anyway?

The Recycle BC residential packaging and paper recycling program is an example of extended producer responsibility (EPR), where the companies and organizations that produce or distribute a material—in this case packaging and paper—are responsible for collecting and managing the material at the end of its useful life.

More than 20 similar programs exist in BC for a range of materials including batteries, tires, motor oil, paint, appliances, and more. In Recycle BC’s program, producers (or stewards —the companies that supply packaging and paper to BC residents) pay fees based on the amount of material they provide to BC residents. Other programs are funded in different ways, for example through a recycling fee when purchasing the product or a refundable deposit when the container is returned. Regardless of the source, the fees are used to manage collection and recycling programs. Recycle BC’s program is 100 percent steward financed (and the first producer responsibility program for packaging and paper recycling in North America to be 100 percent steward financed). That means that Recycle BC only receives money from businesses—no taxpayer money is given to Recycle BC by any governments. Recycle BC uses that money to pay recycling collectors—the local governments, First Nations, and private organizations—that operate curbside, multi-family, and depot collection programs and to pay for the collected materials to be transported and processed before they go to material re-manufacturers where they are transformed into new products.

Over 1,200 stewards have signed on to Recycle BC. By joining Recycle BC, these companies, which include retailers, grocers, manufacturers, and distributors, are ensuring that more of the packaging and paper they provide to BC residents is collected and recycled.

An important aspect of EPR is the focus on improving the system. Recycle BC will conduct research and development to explore how to work with stewards to modify the design of unrecyclable packaging; work with material re-manufacturers to modify the specifications of the materials they accept, so that they can begin to incorporate the types of packaging that are currently not recyclable; and work with material re-manufacturers to develop new uses for materials that are currently unrecyclable.