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Extended Producer Responsibility (E.P.R.): Practical and Regulatory Aspects

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The topic of environmental respect has always been at the center of debates both at the community and national levels. In order to prevent the uncontrolled dispersion of waste, emphasis has been placed on the efficient use of resources throughout their entire life cycle through the introduction of the so-called extended producer responsibility into national legal systems.

Through European Directive 851/2018, which amended Article 8 of Directive 2008/98/EC (known as the Waste Directive), the community legislator has required member states to adopt environmental policies aimed at holding the producer of the product responsible until the point where it becomes waste (known as the post-consumption phase).

In Italy, Legislative Decree No. 116/2020, implementing European Directives 2018/851 and 2018/852 (the so-called “Circular Economy Package“), updated Legislative Decree No. 152/2006, where Articles 178bis and 178ter refer to the definition of E.P.R., that is, Extended Producer Responsibility. According to this regulation, a producer is considered any natural or legal person who professionally develops, manufactures, transforms, treats, sells, or imports products.

In other words, it will be the producer who must take care of the “fate” of their products (in the post-consumption phase) by financing recycling and waste management programs, introducing taxes or economic incentives related to proper waste management, as well as the obligation to label products to inform consumers about their proper disposal.

Therefore, producers are called to internalize the end-of-life costs of their products, including in their price, from the design stage, all measures aimed at recyclability, reusability, and repairability of the product.

In essence, producers and distributors must contribute to waste management without allowing the burden to fall solely on the final consumers.

1.2 What changes for business activities

Germany and France were the first two member states where the EPR regulations came into force.

Therefore, companies that export products to France and Germany are already required to know the details of the extended producer responsibility regulations, adapting to the new obligations to continue selling their products and avoiding monetary penalties of up to 200,000 euros.

It is first necessary to complete an EPR registration with the Authority of the member state where you intend to sell, obtaining the relevant registration number. In each individual country, there is a list of product categories that fall under the obligations of the EPR regulations.

It is then necessary to declare the sales of products that fall within the EPR category list and pay the resulting eco-contributions, calculated based on the type of product, category, and quantity.

Furthermore, even the most common marketplaces have now complied with the EPR regulations, allowing access to e-commerce only to seller accounts that demonstrate compliance, considering that distributors also have the legal obligation to ensure that resellers comply with the aforementioned regulations.

The introduction of EPR represents an important acceleration of the community’s environmental policy, from which the European Commission’s intention to design a homogeneous and consistent regulatory framework for all member states is strong and clear.

However, the complexity of the regulations, together with the penalty regime provided for those who fail to meet the new obligations, makes it necessary to involve an expert professional in the sector who can guide producers and distributors towards the conscious application of the new rules, in order to avoid economic damages or operational limitations.

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