Prof David C Wilson has published a paper with Rachel Cahill, one of his former students, and Prof Sue Grimes, on Extended producer responsibility for packaging wastes and WEEE – a comparison of implementation and the role of local authorities across Europe. The paper was published as a review article in the May 2011 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Waste Management & Research.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is one of the most important policy tools available in waste management, which in principle transfers the responsibility and costs of managing post-consumer product waste back from the local authorities to the ‘producer’ or supply-chain which provided the original product. However, despite common EU Directives covering EPR for packaging waste and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), among other waste streams, implementation has varied markedly between Member States. This paper compares a representative sample of eleven EU countries based on five indicators: stakeholders and responsibilities; compliance mechanisms; role of local authorities; financing mechanisms and merits and limitations, with four countries selected for more detailed case study analysis. Similarities, trends and differences in national systems are highlighted with particular focus on the role of local authorities and their relationship with obligated producers and the effect on the operation and success of each system.  

On the whole, EPR for packaging and WEEE has been successfully implemented throughout Europe in terms of Directive targets. It is, however, clear that the EPR systems currently in application across Europe differ primarily due to contrasting opinion on the legitimacy of local authorities as stakeholders and, in some cases, a fear on the part of industry of associated costs. Where local authorities have been engaged in the design and implementation of national systems, existing infrastructure used and defined roles established for producers and local authorities, results have been significantly more positive than in the cases where local authorities have had limited engagement.