My name is Pascal Frank. I work at the recently established “International Academy Transformation for Environment and Sustainability (TES Academy)” at the German Environment Agency. The Academy aims at providing a joint learning and action environment by bringing together experts for all relevant fields on a topic with external partners from science, administration, industry and civil society. We aim to address institutions and individuals with the potential to implement lessons learned in their institutions and via new collaborations in the specific policy context of a topic.We are currently setting up a transformation process on “Promoting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in international law for a sustainability transformation towards a circular economy” where we aim at reflecting on the EPR approach as one tool for achieving transformation towards a circular economy. The process will start with a workshop from 27th to 29th of June in Dessau-Rosslau, Germany at the premises of the German Environment Agency. We have already won a series of participants from different professional, organizational, and international backgrounds. For details on the workshop and the overall process, please take a look at the attached concept note. The workshop from 27th to 29th of June will only be the start of a process planned for about 9 months.
Thank you for your time in considering this invitation,
With kind regards,
Dr. Pascal Frank
Presidential offices / Präsidialbereich
International Academy Transformation for Environment and Sustainability (TES Academy)
Wörlitzer Platz 1
Tel: +49 (0)340 2103-2981
Fax: +49 (0)340 2104-2396
Hope this email finds you well. Let me introduce you to Pascal and Carsten from the German Environment Agency who are organizing a workshop and process on “Promoting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in
international law for a sustainability transformation towards a circular economy”. Attached is the concept note with more information.
I thought ITU’s experience on the international dimensions of e-waste management and related EPR legislation could be useful here.
I let Pascal and Carsten follow up with more details.
Dr Patrick Schröder
Senior Research Fellow
Environment and Society Programme
The Royal Institute of International Affairs
10 St James's Square
London SW1Y 4LE
Independent thinking since 1920
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Dear Dr. Frank,
As Gus Speth mentioned, EPR is a key focus of my work and has been for several decades. Research and discourse on EPR tend to take several forms—practical (or nearly practical) analysis of EPR policies, opposition from business interests, vague and enthusiastic exhortations that see EPR as a silver bullet. Like all environmental policies, EPR has strengths and weaknesses, and devil is usually in the details. Analyses of the relationship of EPR to over-consumption, just transitions, material footprints etc. must take into account how EPR actually works (or doesn’t) as well as its inherent strengths and limitations. Unfortunately, I have found very little literature that grounds discussion of the transformational potential of EPR with the detailed understanding of this policy strategy. Contributing to this difficulty is a notable lack of rigorous ex post evaluation of the performance of EPR systems.
I have developed a bibliography of over 1, 200 reports, articles, and related documents on EPR I plan to make publicly accessible this autumn. Stay tuned!
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In EPR it is typically the brand owner—Apple (for electronics), Unilever (for packaging), etc—that is assigned responsibility. Tracking thus starts with the quantity of the relevant product or package when it is “put on market.” Individual items are not tracked, but rather the quantity of the relevant product or package by unit and/or weight and where relevant by material. So, example, for EPR applied to e-waste (or as it is called in Europe, WEEE), Apple provides information on the quantity of its products put on the market in a given category of electronic products. An organization that manages compliance with requirements for collection and processing of the discarded products for multiple producers—a “producer responsibility organization” or PRO--allocates the cost to the various producers by market share.
Upstream entities such as materials suppliers are typically involved to the extent that the obligated producer demands specific characteristics or changes to the materials in order to comply with the EPR requirements. Sometimes the costs are shared with other parts of the supply chain.
All of the descriptions of these details have exceptions, of course. There are more than 400 PROs in operation around the world and EPR policies across countries, states, and provinces differ in many details.
I’m not aware of any studies that trace materials in the way that you describe. There are, however, a vast number of material flow analyses in industrial ecology that trace the flow of materials across the entire life cycle—extraction to materials processing to manufacture to sale, use, recycling, etc., and dispoal—but not at the level of the pellet. (However, Primo Levi does something like that—for entirely literary purposes--in The Periodic Table.) You might find this paper of interest:
Goldstein, B, Newell, JP. Why academics should study the supply chains of individual corporations. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2019; 23: 1316– 1327. https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12932
Is there a path study, as an example, only, of the life of a pellet used to make a container which may go to a container mfg or a company that makes the container on site for its product and the product goes in many directions to ultimate destruction or recovery/recycle? How does the EPR work for that pellet company?