Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes should only be established when they make economic sense, according to umbrella trade association EuRIC.
It is urging European and national policymakers to exercise greater scrutiny before establishing new EPR programmes.
EuRIC said that EPR is often seen as a silver bullet to improve waste management, and that they have ballooned in recent years as policy has shifted towards the polluter pays principle.
But in a position paper, EuRIC warned that sufficient assessment of whether a waste stream has a positive or negative value is needed prior to establishing new schemes.
EuRIC secretary general Emmanuel Katrakis said: “EPR schemes can be effective when they involve recyclers or their representatives in their governance bodies, thereby providing an expertise manufactures typically lack.
“They also have an instrumental role in bringing together manufacturers and recyclers through effective eco-modulation of fees that promote recyclability and recycled content.
“Good examples exist with respect to end-of-life vehicles and industrial packaging, yet other notable schemes pose a fundamental risk to recycling investments.”
He added that EPR schemes should only be established where collection and treatment costs are adequately assessed and exceed the economic value of the waste stream.
This includes deciding on appropriate governance, an organisational or operational role, and whether alternative policy instruments could be implemented.
Recyclers, rather than EPR schemes, should retain ownership of the waste stream to maintain their ability to invest and scale up recycling, otherwise this will further erode the competitiveness of recycled over extracted raw materials.