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Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): What are the Design Implications on Durable Products?

Authors

Atalay Atasu, Georgia Institute of Technology
Natalie (Ximin) Huang, University of Minnesota
L. Beril Toktay, Georgia Institute of Technology

Research Questions Addressed

How do different policy requirements influence strategic design choices such as recyclability and durability?

How can policymakers set requirements to achieve desired results, while avoiding unintended consequences?

Primary Findings

Durable goods producers can respond to EPR legislation by making their products either more recyclable or more durable; the former will decrease the unit recycling cost whereas the latter will reduce the volume the producer has to recycle. While recyclability and durability both affect the environmental impact of durable goods, the attributes are not always complementary. In many instances, improving durability lessens recyclability, and vice versa.

When there are design tradeoffs, the relative stringency of recycling targets and collection targets determined by policymakers have the potential to incentivize different design choices—and ultimately different environmental outcomes. A numerical study calibrated to the Photovoltaic Panel industry suggests that stricter EPR legislation, if not properly designed, may result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions or total waste generation—precisely the opposite of the intended goal of such legislation.

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Brandi Thompson
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