EPR and Ecofees 101

Even today, many businesses are unaware that they must pay ecofees for the products they place on the market. Ecofees are environmental handling fees used to finance the collecting and recycling of certain products at the end of their useful life. This "polluter pays" principle is known as Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR.

As the name suggests, EPR aims to hold companies accountable for the products they market. Okay, but how? In what way? In fact, this accountability varies greatly from one country to another, from one program to another, and even from one product to another! It's not so simple.

A Bit of History

The concept of EPR emerged in the late 1980s, but it wasn't until the early 2000s that it truly took shape. The principle of EPR dictates that governments impose on producers the full environmental responsibility for the products they bring to market, from product design to end-of-life disposal.

The Canadian Landscape

In Canada, the most widespread programs target Packaging, and Printed Paper (PPP), newspapers, magazines, batteries, electronics (ICTs), oils, paints, mercury-containing, etc.

Businesses must report to different ecofee programs depending on the type of products, the target clientele, and the province in which they operate. Moreover, some companies are exempt from ecofees based on their income, the quantities of products marketed, and other specific criteria for each program and province.

In many cases, EPR programs focus solely on the end-of-life of products and simply require producers to ensure their recovery and recycling. They often rely on producer responsibility organizations (PROs) to handle drop-off points, collection, transportation, and recycling of products.

Elsewhere In the World

Many countries that have introduced EPR programs for different products, such as electronic devices, packaging, or batteries, settle for simply requiring that the collection and recycling targets stipulated in the applicable regulations be reached, to reduce the amount of waste and the financial burden municipalities bear (which, of course, directly impacts your municipal tax bill). Yet, it would be in everyone’s interest to hold producers responsible well before the end of their products’ life, by requiring them to:

  • Use recyclable materials in product manufacturing.
  • Have a minimum product lifespan (as opposed to planned obsolescence).
  • Make products repairable, meaning having spare parts and being able to easily disassemble products for repair.
  • Design products with eco-friendly features to minimize resources required for manufacturing, etc.

While making producers responsible for collecting and recycling their products is a first step toward corporate accountability, other measures must be implemented to ensure genuine product stewardship and the creation of a circular economy.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for businesses to embrace their social responsibility. It's important to be aware of these programs, check if your products and packaging are affected, and contribute your fair share.

To have peace of mind and verify your obligations, contact us.