As stated in the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, “extended producer’s responsibility means the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life”.
A legislative strategy used by most industrialised nations to promote reuse, recycling, and eco-friendly disposal of polymer waste, EPR helps companies align social values with their own business framework; further, making progress towards sustainable development goals and strengthening their brand equity. In this policy approach, manufacturers have the responsibility of treatment or disposal of post-consumer products in order to be accountable for the end-life impacts of their plastic products and packaging, as well as encouraging holistic eco-design in the business sector. Alongside, producers are required to keep records of vendors to whom they supply raw material for manufacturing carry bags, plastic sheets and multi-layered packaging.
Within EPR, lies a closed loop approach through which waste generated from a product is used to produce another product. This approach ensures the price of the product includes the cost of its safe disposal, and thus, significantly reduces the environmental impact of the waste as well as leads to lower cost of production for the new product.
Except for some who have been collecting waste through PROs (Producer Responsibility Organisations), EPR implementation in India has not been very satisfactory. With PROs in place, backed by the collection targets of producers, the non-recyclable waste – which would have either been burnt or disposed of in drains or dumpsites – can now be bought from rag pickers.
While paving the way for a seamless adoption of India’s new stringent environmental legislation, a sustainable infrastructure based on source segregation needs to be developed by producers.
An ideal EPR framework should be an integration of all stakeholders.