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The Role of Economics in Extended Producer Responsibility: Making Policy Choices and Setting Policy Goals

  • Walls, Margaret

    ()

    (Resources for the Future)

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) embodies the notion that producers should be made physically or financially responsible for the environmental impacts their products have at the end of product life. The EPR concept has taken hold in Europe and is garnering wide interest in the United States, where a variant known as “shared product responsibility” or “product stewardship” is usually the preferred approach. There are several policy instruments that are consistent with EPR—product take-back mandates, advance disposal fees, deposit-refunds, recycled content standards, and more. The EPR concept itself, however, provides little guidance about which of these instruments might be appropriate under particular conditions and for particular products. Moreover, while the EPR goal is usually focused on end-of-life environmental impacts, in the United States, at least, the goal seems to have widened to include environmental impacts throughout the product life-cycle. And even a focus on end-of-life impacts leaves the question of whether EPR is intended to deal with waste volumes, the toxic constituents of waste, the method of waste disposal, or a combination of these things. In this paper, I address three main topics: appropriate goals for EPR; conditions under which EPR should be preferred over alternative non-EPR policy instruments; and specific policy instruments that are both cost-effective and consistent with EPR principles. In the discussion of the second and third topics, I focus on the issue of “design for environment.” I develop four policy “maxims” that should guide EPR policymaking. I then apply those maxims to a brief case study of electronic and electrical equipment waste.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-03-11.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2003
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-03-11
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  1. Margaret Walls & Paul Calcott, 2000. "Can Downstream Waste Disposal Policies Encourage Upstream "Design for Environment"?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 233-237, May.
  2. Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
  3. Palmer, Karen & Walls, Margaret, 2000. "Upstream Pollution, Downstream Waste Disposal, and the Design of Comprehensive Environmental Policies," Discussion Papers dp-97-51-rev, Resources For the Future.
  4. Dinan Terry M., 1993. "Economic Efficiency Effects of Alternative Policies for Reducing Waste Disposal," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 242-256, November.
  5. Spulber, Daniel F., 1985. "Effluent regulation and long-run optimality," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 103-116, June.
  6. Linderhof, Vincent & Kooreman, Peter & Allers, Maarten & Wiersma, Doede, 2001. "Weight-based pricing in the collection of household waste: the Oostzaan case," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 359-371, October.
  7. Thomas Eichner & Rüdiger Pethig, 1999. "Product Design and efficient Management of Recycling and Waste Treatment," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 76-99, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.
  8. Fullerton, Don, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxes: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 245-51, March.
  9. Don Fullerton & Ann Wolverton, 1997. "The Case for a Two-Part Instrument: Presumptive Tax and Environmental Subsidy," NBER Working Papers 5993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Ronnie Schöb, 1997. "Environmental Taxes and Pre-Existing Distortions: The Normalization Trap," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 167-176, May.
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