Extension of manufacturer responsibility

An underlying principle of more recent environmental regulations is that of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), an environmental policy approach in which a producer's responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of the product's life cycle, focusing on product-systems instead of production facilities. This can be translated into restrictions at different levels, from the obligation of producers to take on the costs of disposal and, in some cases, the organization of calling in their products after use, to the explicit demand for product requisites such as ease of disassembly and recyclability.

The principle of EPR relies for its implementation upon the life cycle concept to identify opportunities to prevent pollution and reduce resource use in each stage of the product life cycle, through changes in process technology and product design. Therefore the ultimate aim of this type of regulatory action is to stimulate the redesign of some categories of products in order to obtain a reduction in their environmental impact, encouraging producers to adopt an integrated approach for the development and management of eco-compatible products, and introducing an extended vision of the problem to cover the entire life cycle of products. This extended view, typical of Design for Environment and Life Cycle Design approaches, includes a wide range of aspects (energy consumption, use of materials, component duration, reuse of components and recycling of materials).

Since its introduction, EPR has become a characteristic of regulations regarding various production sectors, constituting a valid stimulus for a process of innovation directed at environmental sustainability. As meaningful examples, we briefly report the current situation in the European Union regarding EPR implementation in two important industrial sectors: vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment.

EPR in Europe

Extending the limit of producer responsibility beyond the point of sale, EPR favors a life cycle oriented approach to product design and development. The Green Paper on
Integrated Product Policy (IPP), adopted by European Commission in 2001, strengthen and amended by the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on IPP in 2003, clearly confirms this assumption. It launches a broad debate on how to achieve a new growth paradigm through wealth creation and competitiveness on the basis of greener products, and proposes strategies intended to reinforce environmental policies, with the aim of integrating environmental requirements into product standards. In this context “the concept of producer responsibility relates to the integration of costs occurring once the product has been sold into the price of new products. This encourages prevention at the design stage and allows consumers to bring back end-of-life products free of charge”.

The concept of producer responsibility for the disposal of products at the end of their useful life has recently bee
n integrated into the Directive on End-of-Life Vehicles and the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The implications of these directives have great impact on product design, because they encourage alternatives to hazardous substances, and design for disassembly and recycling.
Directive 2000/53/EC o
n End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) established prevention measures for waste from scrapped vehicles, its collection and treatment to promote reuse and recycling, and restrictions on the use of dangerous substances in new vehicles. The salient points of the Directive are:

  • Prevention of waste from vehicles, and improvement in the environmental performance of all of the operators involved in the life cycle of vehicles

  • Fundamental principles that waste should be reused and recovered, and that preventive measures should be applied from the conception and design phases of vehicle, in order to facilitate recycling and to avoid the disposal of hazardous waste

  • Precise targets for rate of recovery and recycling (within 1 January 2006 the reuse and recovery shall be increased to a minimum of 85%, and reuse and recycling shall be increased to a minimum of 80%, by an average weight per vehicle and year; within 1 January 2015 these limits should be raised to 95% and 85% respectively)

Similarly, Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), amended by Directive 2003/108/EC, is aimed at increasing the recovery flows of various categories of products (household appliances, IT and telecommunications equipment, lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools, medical devices, monitoring and control instruments), extending producer responsibility to cover collection and recycling. From August 2005, the following obligations exist:

  • Producers must finance the collection, treatment, recovery, and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE from private households and from other users, and meet precise targets for rate of recovery and the recyclable fraction to be reached by December 2006.

  • Distributors must be prepared to take in old, similar equipment, for waste treatment on a one-to-one basis when supplying new electrical or electronic products.

  • All products falling under the Directive and put on the European Union market must be marked by producers with the symbol of a crossed-out wheeled bin.

  • Member States must encourage the design and production of electrical and electronic equipment which facilitates disassembly, reuse and recycling of WEEE, components and materials.






Waste Electrical
and Electronic



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