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Is EPR going to solve the problem?

Urban Impact President and CEO Nicole Stefenelli shares her thoughts:

Municipal governments in Canada have long been complaining that the cost of municipal solid waste (MSW) is their problem, and it should not be.  Just because the consumer happens to consume and discard the product within their boundaries … does not mean that the burden of cost should be theirs. 

To solve the problem, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will save the day!

Personally, I don’t believe that EPR will solve the entire issue at handPrinted Paper & Packaging EPR will begin in early 2014, a new stewardship program for BC.  In late 2011, 16 stewards in BC, are trying to successfully transfer the burden of cost to the producer or first importer in BC.  I think it is safe to say, that in many cases such as tires, oil, drink containers and electronics that this is largerly true.  But the sad reality is that although the burden of cost has been transfered, the real problem has not.  The real problem, in my view, is our consumerism.  Our insatiable appetite for products is driving our waste and refuse problems.

There is a simple pollution prevention hierarchy that exits.   The hierarchy and should drive all of us to think about our consumerism, it begins with avoiding waste when ever possible, if avoiding cannot be achieved, then Reducing (what we produce), if you can’t do this, then make sure to Reuse it, if you can’t reuse it then be sure to Recycle it, if it cannot be recycled, perhaps it could be managed and Recovered (burnt and turned into energy) and lastly, Disposal (landfill).

Pollution Prevention Heirarchy

Though IRR focuses on reuse, recycling, and recovery of resources, the purpose of doing so is to avoid consuming new resources, and ultimately to dispose of even less. This is illustrated in the Pollution Prevention Hierarchy diagram above.


I don’t think it is reasonable for the consumer to understand or remember the entire hierarchy.  But, fundamentally if each time we were about to make a purchasing decision, we at least tried to consider the purchase and its contribution to waste, then perhaps we would start making a difference!  Really EPR cannot solve our problems, it is thoughtful and careful consumer choices that will drive us to reducing our waste, and limiting our damage on our world’s resources.