If you’re in the packaging industry, you might have already heard the term “extended producer responsibility” or EPR. At the beginning of 2023, Google searches for EPR or extended producer responsibility exploded, in part because of new regulations in the United Kingdom requiring any brand that produces packaging to become EPR compliant this year or risk fines and penalties.
If you’re still wondering what EPR is, we at Scrapp have put together a useful article to help you understand EPR. But what if you understand the basics, but want to know how you specifically can become EPR compliant? If you’re in that position, this article is for you. Read on for tips about EPR compliance, and how we at Scrapp can help.
Why is it important to become EPR compliant?
You probably already know that EPR compliance has become a requirement in the UK, with companies having to fulfill certain requirements based on the size of the company and how much packaging each company produces. If you’re in the UK, and you run a business that produces any time of packaging, you don’t really have a choice in the matter. You’ll need to become EPR compliant to avoid getting saddled with heavy fines.
But if you’re located in the United States, you might be tempted to think that this guide isn’t for you. That simply isn’t the case. While we understand that you might want to keep costs as low as possible, taking steps towards EPR compliance now can help future-proof your brand against changes to legislation and regulations.
In the past few years, the United States has made historic changes to policy and has set unprecedented targets all geared towards addressing the climate crisis. And while current legislation has been focused mostly on clean energy, net-zero technology and electric cars, packaging and recycling do contribute to climate change. EPR addresses this by boosting the circular economy, reducing both waste and emissions, because recycling packaging results in less carbon dioxide emissions than producing new packaging. So it’s no surprise that while sweeping regulations like the ones declared in the United Kingdom have so far not been introduced in the US, EPR-related legislation is popping up more and more across the country.
EPR legislation in the US already exists for products like paint and electronics, but EPR regulations centered around packaging and paper products are gaining ground. Bills meant to create EPR programs for packaging have been introduced at state and federal levels, and both non-profit organizations and trade associations have released policy statements in support of EPR. Proposed legislation differs from state to state, and can cover different types of packaging, include different fee structures and timelines, or set different targets, so it’s always important to know what the legal landscape looks like in your home state. But no matter where you live, taking steps towards EPR compliance now can only help you further down the line.
Steps to EPR Compliance
EPR requirements vary depending on the country, and depending on the state and region you live in. But regardless of where you live, there are a few basic steps you can take to put yourself on the path to compliance:
1. Develop a plan for managing the end-of-life of your products.
EPR regulations are focused on reducing pollution caused by packaging, so making sure that you know how your products are meant to be recycled can only help you. This might include setting targets for recycling and disposal, as well as identifying the necessary infrastructure and systems you’ll need to lean on to achieve those targets.
This is also a good time to consider redesigning your packaging with sustainability in mind. The more sustainable and recyclable your product is, the easier this step will be down the line. Many current EPR programs base their fees on how much pollution your product generates, so taking a look at your packaging and making sure to choose sustainable, recyclable options where possible will not only make this step easier for you, it will also save you some money.
2. Communicate the recyclability of your products to consumers.
Having recyclable packaging won’t help much if your consumers don’t know that your packaging can be recycled in the first place. That means designing your packaging and advertising so that your product’s recyclability is extremely clear. To do this, you can label your product with common recycling symbols, communicate your new packaging’s recyclability through its design, advertise your new packaging as recyclable through marketing, or undertake educational and outreach efforts.
3. Work with governments and other stakeholders to develop effective systems for collecting, disposing, and recycling products at the end of their lifecycle.
Being involved in the recycling process will help you better understand what it takes to recycle your packaging, and by contributing to the development of these systems and initiatives, you’ll be able to ensure that your product’s packaging is well-tailored to your area’s requirements. This may involve participating in industry-led initiatives or partnering with organizations that specialize in recycling and waste management.
4. Manage the reporting and monitoring of your EPR compliance.
Today’s EPR regulation usually comes with reporting requirements, where packaging producers are responsible for monitoring and tracking their packaging’s recyclability and what happens to packaging at the end of their life cycles. Depending on whether or not your organization already has these reporting systems in place, this may take some time and effort, so it’s best to get started now. This task may include tracking progress against targets, conducting audits and assessments, and engaging with regulators and other oversight bodies.
5. Market the compliance of your brands to consumers, investors, and other stakeholders.
After putting in all the work to become EPR compliant, it’s only natural that you’ll want to benefit from it. The good news is, once your packaging complies with EPR requirements, you can use your packaging’s environmental friendliness in your marketing campaigns, letting consumers, investors, and other stakeholders know about your brand’s forward thinking. This can be done through transparency initiatives, sustainability reports, and other forms of communication that highlight the brand's commitment to EPR and the circular economy.
How Can Scrapp Help?
You might have noticed that the advice in this post has been fairly general, and unfortunately, that’s because in an industry with so many different products and requirements, it’s hard to write specific advice that works for everyone. Every brand is different, and between your individual products and requirements, the regional and national regulations you might be subject to, and the state of recycling infrastructure in your area, your road to EPR compliance will likely be unique to you.
If you need help, though, we’re here for you. At Scrapp, we’re experts at helping brands achieve their sustainability goals. Here are some of the ways we can help brands and retailers become EPR compliant:
Communicating correct recycling practices of your products
Scrapp offers bespoke recycling guidance for customers at the point of disposal, through our free mobile app. All you have to do is provide us with information about the materials that make up your packaging, and we’ll make sure that our users know how to recycle your products. The best part - because our app tailors recycling advice to each consumer’s local recycling guidelines, you don’t need to worry about taking those into account. Make your packaging as widely recyclable as possible, and we’ll do the rest.
Understanding recyclability of product packaging
Still unsure how to improve your packaging’s recyclability? We can help with that too. Scrapp works directly with brands and retailers to help you understand just how recyclable your packaging is, by scoring your brand’s packaging across all areas you service. And if you’re looking to up your sustainability game, we also offer bespoke consulting services, to find ways to help you make your packaging more sustainable. Book a quick call with one of our packaging consultants.
Tracking of materials and packaging types in your value chains
If the idea of keeping track of your packaging’s recyclability is making your head spin, let us help you. Through our Brand Verified program, you can upload your packaging information directly onto our website, and we can work with you on tracking the types of materials and packaging that go into your supply chains, making sure that you (and your consumers) are aware of your product’s sustainability at all stages of its life.
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