Extended producer responsibility for furniture

Can we improve the circular economy performance of furniture and bedding products in particular? The Scottish and Welsh Governments have been co-operating to investigate the viability of expanding the existing EPR schemes.

In July, Oakdene Hollins participated in a second workshop in Edinburgh on the issue and a week later, in a well-attended conference in Cardiff on a similar topic. We advocate a Product Stewardship approach on the grounds that the people involved in designing and making a product are best placed to make the changes necessary to redesign products or operate take-back schemes for re-use, recycling or remanufacture.

We advocate an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme designed to first target the most advantageous market segments or product categories. Doing so can create a basic infrastructure – and, more importantly, competition – to drive down the processing and transport costs before the harder-to-reach segments of the market are targeted. Too many EPR schemes implemented in jurisdictions from France to California try to cover all categories of a product at once. In bedding for example, we base our recommendations on a model borrowed from the profit sector. Whitbread plc changed its procurement policies for Premier Inn and overcame inertia in the supply chain by insisting on a recycling pathway for mattresses at end-of-life.

In general, it is far easier for profit-sector companies to use leadership in procurement in contrast to slow progress using Green Public Procurement. Why? Public sector procurement staff are hemmed in by a myriad of value-for-money objectives and the risk of being subjected to a legal battle with suppliers that need to resist change.

Whether or not the Scottish Government or Welsh Governments pilot such EPR schemes is uncertain but, in the meantime, Oakdene Hollins is glad to be working with the National Bed Federation whose membership voted firmly in favour of developing a workable scheme in co-operation with policy makers.

Contact David Fitzsimons for more information on the work we're doing with trade associations on product stewardship and the circular economy.

Simon Strick