Extended Producer Responsibility in the construction sector

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is rooted in the concept of internalising environmental costs and adhering to the ‘polluter pays’ principle. This paper introduces the concept, offers practical insights from France and the Netherlands, and explores how it can contribute to the construction sector’s transition towards a more circular economy.

The EU’s construction industry consumes nearly 50% of all extracted materials and generates almost 40% of the EU’s waste. Although nearly 95% of building materials are recyclable, less than 5% of their actual resource value is currently being preserved.

Circular economy approaches can significantly contribute to achieving climate goals. It is estimates that greater material efficiency could reduce emissions from building materials by up to 80%. Additionally, these measures offer other advantages such as avoiding supply chain insecurities, alleviating pressure on ecosystems, reduce the environmental impacts associated with extracting and processing primary resources.

Unlocking the potential: Extended Producer Responsibility as a catalyst for sustainable construction

Against this backdrop Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) emerges as a relevant policy approach with significant potential to improve recycling infrastructure, drive business models that promote a circular economy, and at the same time to incentivise upstream design choices for more environmentally friendly products.

The application of EPR in the construction sector will require further discussion on several critical issues, such as the appropriate scope of the scheme, open vs. closed-loop recycling, and defining sustainability criteria in product design. However, existing examples in France and the Netherlands offer practical insights and underscore the feasibility and benefits of adopting EPR in the construction sector.

A Call to Action for the new European Commission

The new European Commission should initiate a comprehensive examination of EPR´s role within the sector. This is both timely and relevant, given also that new regulations like the revised EPBD, the EU Taxonomy, and the revised Construction Product Regulation (CPR) are set to drive demand for low-carbon, circular construction materials. To leverage the scheme´s potential, it is crucial to foster collaboration between the ‘building sustainability’ communities, such as green public procurement, whole life carbon, energy efficiency and circular construction.

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