Is Legislation Necessary for Producer Financing of Recycling (EPR)?

Some stakeholders have asked us whether only legislated EPR is necessary to increase recycling rates of consumer packaging and printed paper. Of course, there are plenty of ways to boost recycling without EPR legislation. They include many of the tools we suggest in working paper #2 of the study, such as more curbside access, use of single-stream carts, harmonization of materials collected in all communities and higher spending on consumer education. However, we believe that EPR would accelerate the increased use of these tools on the scale necessary to make a difference. The alternative is that local governments will be the entities trying to employ these methods one at a time, which is a very slow process to get the scale necessary.

The other clear advantage of EPR is that it avoids free riders. Many companies would be willing to support recycling, but they are less likely to do so if their competitors are not. An EPR system would have transparent criteria for how much everyone pays into the system and companies would treat the costs are part of doing business rather than a philanthropic effort.

We have also been asked if it is possible to fund or employ these tools separately. For example, could a group of companies fund additional single-stream carts or education efforts? Certainly, those efforts could make a difference, but the “bundling” of these tools create an effect that is greater than the sum of their parts. Working paper #2 of our study shows what could happen in that scenario.