Conundrum “Extended Producer Responsibility” [EPR]

Do you know how much EPR you pay? It is a fraction of the cost of every product we take off store shelves. Depending on the legal regimes it’s a fraction of U$ 150/t waste treatment cost varying between 10 –150% across Europe. It is mostly used to pay Producer Responsibility Organizations [PRO] in charge of meeting the recovery and recycling obligations of producers, perceived as “polluters”.

Plastic, cardboard or paper packaging waste usually have ⅔ Carbon content that could be used for refining new packaging materials in lieu of crude oil, if Carbon was recycled. As such the Tonne packaging waste would have ~ U$ 300/t arms’ length crude value of Carbon, nowadays squandered into atmosphere for so called Waste to Energy [W2E].  At 19GJ/t it just generates 600kWhel + 3.6MWhth district heat, emitting 2.3t CO2. For such energy several regimes even provide Feed-in-Tariffs [FiT] of at least 2 times arms’ length. The same Energy could be produced from 400m³ Natural Gas (on demand probably only 60%), it would cost ~ U$ 100 (x 60%) and cause less than 0.75t CO2.

Unfortunately EPR and FiT schemes facilitate such Carbon lavishness on the expense of the general public and to the threat of all Climate Change mitigation endeavors. Particularly in view of the fossil substitution ratio being 2.1 liter crude oil per kg recycled Carbon it suppresses the real value adding potential of organic waste. In combination with FiT arrangements for burning renewable or repeatable organic matter consumers being withheld the economics of #CarbonRecycling are made pay ~ U$ 145/t CO2 squandered beyond the Natural Gas benchmark. Money walks – nobody talks voluntarily about changing that game!

Process heat intensive industries like e.g. cement industry values Refuse Derived Fuels between U$ 0.45 to 0.60/GJ calorific value (about ⅟10th of Natural Gas), taking advantage of consumers’ EPR financing of ~ U$ 8/GJ to then cause ~ 2.3 times the CO2 emissions. But people don’t know this steal from them not to mention the suppressed Added Value Opportunity from #CarbonRecycling stolen from society. Probably this is also new to most CSR officers in companies forced to handle EPR cost to consumers.

To change practices to a better will need the Power of the People – because for the beneficiaries of the current system and related industries with its lobbies EPR is a very comfortable thing favoring incineration.

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