Log in

How Extended Producer Responsibility can promote a circular economy

2023-12-04 2:41 PM | Reuse Minnesota (Administrator)

About EPR
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy tool that makes producers legally and financially responsible for mitigating the environmental impacts of their products and packaging.” (

This is largely based on the principles and understanding that manufacturers have the most knowledge of and influence over product design and are therefore also the most well-suited to manage products at the end-of-life stage. EPR policies leverage institutional power to reduce product waste by encouraging more sustainable, repairable, and reusable designs in the first place. It also sets the expectation that if a producer creates a product, there needs to be circular systems and mechanisms in place from the start, as opposed to perpetuating the linear take-make-waste models. While there is an acknowledgment that individuals drive demand with their purchasing, EPR policies redirect the ultimate ownership back to the producer. 

EPR can outline clear and standardized approaches to managing certain types of materials and waste, as well as promote more transparency in making and substantiating claims of sustainability. All products inherently impact the environment throughout their lifecycle, so the longer they stay in use and are recirculated, the better. EPR with strong measurement, tracking, and reporting requirements can increase awareness of environmental impacts and help reduce greenwashing.

To date, the majority of EPR policies center more on recycling, which is a good start but not as impactful. The key to unlocking the full potential of EPR is to require practices and infrastructure that more effectively decrease resource extraction, energy consumption, climate pollution, and waste generated at end-of-life. EPR needs to prioritize reduction, repair, and reuse over recycling. Recycling is important when recycled content offsets the demand for virgin materials but it doesn’t eliminate the impacts that are still generated during the manufacturing phase. Reusable materials, products, and packaging are key to avoiding these impacts, reducing emissions and wastes, while also promoting the circular economy.

Current EPR Legislation
So, where is reuse-oriented EPR being done? Here in Minnesota, reusers are celebrating the passing of the Digital Fair Repair law during the 2023 legislative sessions, making it easier for consumers and small businesses to fix phones, computers, equipment, appliances, and so on. While typically not identified as an EPR bill, this legislation nonetheless is a critical step towards expanding electronics reuse and setting expectations that manufacturers are required to participate - even if just by making parts, documentation, software, and tools available to the public.

Many other states are developing EPR legislation, notably within the world of packaging. Maine and Oregon were first to implement laws in 2021, followed by California and Colorado in 2022, and New Jersey and Washington in 2023. The level of reuse investment in these bills varies, but hopefully, efforts will continue to prioritize this, and programs will be established. EPR is certainly on the rise in the United States, with many other states considering similar changes. More legislation is expected in the future as momentum continues, including Minnesota with an EPR for packaging and paper products (PPP) in development.

Becoming completely “zero waste” is most certainly a challenge, but with more EPR that prioritizes sustainable design, reuse and repairability, and circular infrastructure, there are clear opportunities for reducing the environmental impacts and waste generation of our products and materials. The best thing we can do is to work with policymakers and industry leaders to move towards more holistic ownership of products, more equitable distribution of financial and managerial responsibility, and ground legislation in more waste reduction, repair, and reuse whenever possible.

Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.

Contact us
Email Reuse Minnesota

© 2024 Reuse Minnesota. All rights reserved. | Reuse Minnesota is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software