Extended Producer Responsibility: An Assessment of Recent Amendments to the European Union Waste Framework Directive


Katrien Steenmans
Lecturer in Law,
Coventry Law School;
Research Associate,
Centre for Business in Society,
Coventry University


The vast amount of plastic waste produced is a huge problem that requires urgent action. A ‘circular economy’ approach, where resource and waste streams are reused, recycled, or recovered instead of sent to landfill or incinerated in order to achieve both economic prosperity and environmental protection, has been promoted by, inter alia, the European Union (EU) and Ellen MacArthur Foundation to improve plastic waste management to prevent plastic waste being ‘wasted’. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a tool that can be used to help implement circular approaches that has been implemented at EU level by the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) 2008/98/EC. Such schemes shift responsibilities for waste management from consumers and authorities (those traditionally made responsible) to the producer of a product. The EU implementation of EPR has, however, been criticised in the literature and is therefore considered to have limited impact. Directive 2018/851 has recently amended the 2008 WFD with its explicit aim in part to clarify the EPR provisions. This article investigates, by adopting a doctrinal approach, to what extent the Directive 2018/851 amendments to the 2008 WFD EPR scheme address criticisms of EPR for the purpose of facilitating transitions towards circular economies. This article concludes that there are some criticisms that are addressed, but many remain unresolved.


Circular economy, European Union, extended producer responsibility, plastic waste, Waste Framework Directive.


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