These briefs are the first in an ongoing series of case studies examining Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Systems in various locations around the globe, from the perspective of waste picker organizations. Produced by the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and WIEGO, this series looks at how the growing adoption of EPR policies and systems worldwide can either threaten or improve livelihoods for informal waste pickers who have traditionally been key players in recycling and reuse.
EPR systems come in many shapes and forms and can cover a range of materials. Their primary purpose is to hold producers responsible for the environmental and economic cost of the packaging and products that they put into the market. Some systems are mandatory policies, while others are voluntary initiatives led by companies or consortiums.
Waste is not just an environmental issue, it is a valuable commodity. For waste pickers, EPR systems can be controversial because they shift both power and profit to producers or other waste sector actors, often introducing new actors who compete for materials. But in places where waste pickers are organized, EPR can be a positive disruption that has the potential to finance new or existing waste picker activities. Thus, EPR can present both risks and opportunities for waste pickers and their organizations. Without a clear understanding of EPR in different contexts, however, it can be difficult for waste pickers and their organizations to know what to demand when an EPR system is being proposed or how an existing system should be changed.
This series aims to close that knowledge gap by sharing on-the-ground, lived experience of local waste pickers and their organizations in places where some form of EPR exists. Each study concludes with a set of recommendations for improving the system to better accommodate waste picker integration.