Faced with increasing amounts of waste, many governments have reviewed available policy options and concluded that placing the responsibility for the post-consumer phase of certain goods on producers could be an option. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is one such policy adopted by many governments in their nations.
In the field of waste management, extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a strategy to add all of the environmental costs associated with a product throughout the product life cycle to the market price of that product.policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. Assigning such responsibility could in principle provide incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.
The policy, now, also includes plastic. Managing plastic products after use also falls under the responsibility of the producer itself.
EPR in India
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced they prepared the national framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR).
The laws make it mandatory for companies to collect-back and recycle their plastic. India generates approximately 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Approximately 10,556 tonnes of this waste remains uncollected and thus reaches landfills or is thrown on the streets.
Small manufacturers must contribute to an EPR fund which will pay local bodies to recycle the amount of plastic they produced. Medium and large businesses who don’t have experience in recycling can hire Producer Responsibility Organisations, or PROs. Plastics For Change can become a PRO for companies as they transition to the new framework. Larger companies can acquire credits if they send plastic to recycling units. Plastics For Change is partnering with brands and manufacturers to recycle their plastic and help companies comply with legislation.
Understanding the concept
Today, more than 95% of plastic waste ends up in landfills. Globally, EPR is the only viable strategy to prevent landfilling of plastic waste.
Polymer waste is generated during manufacturing, distribution and sale of a variety of products including consumer goods, tires etc. EPR assigns the responsibility of disposal of this waste to the manufacturer of the goods. For example, disposal of post-consumer laminate waste (PCLW) or flexible packaging used for food items, consumer goods, and water bottles is assigned to consumer goods manufacturers. Similarly, the responsibility of disposal of Waste tires disposal responsibility is assigned to the tire manufacturing companies under EPR.
At the centre of EPR lies a closed-loop approach to managing products, whereby 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. Therefore, this approach significantly reduces the environmental impact of the waste as well as leads to lower cost of production for the new product.
One of the aims when introducing EPR schemes has often been to give producers an incentive to change product design in environmentally benign ways, for example by making it easier to reuse or recycle the products.
Inspite of these laws, India has made little progress in managing its plastic waste. According to CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) estimates in 2015, Indian cities generate about 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day and about 70 per cent of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste. Nearly 40 per cent of India’s plastic waste is neither collected nor recycled and ends up polluting the land and water.
The National Green Tribunal earlier this year hauled up 25 states and union territories for not following its orders on submitting a plan by April 30, 2019, on how they would comply with the PWM Rules of 2016. They stand to potentially pay a fine of Rs 1 crore.
Now CPCB has hardened its stance on plastic packaging and has asked 52 companies from nine industries to submit their EPR plan, in accordance to the PWM rules, 2016. Non-submission of EPR plans can attract action under the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986 and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010.
So far, EPR implementation in India under the rules is far from satisfactory, except for some who have been collecting waste through PROs(Producer Responsibility Organisation) . With 20 registered PROs with CPCB, the EPR responsibility of the producer is shifted to a PRO. This has increased the quantum of waste diverted from landfills or oceans.
An ideal EPR framework should be an integration of all stakeholders. Also, a sustainable infrastructure based on source segregation needs to be developed by producers. Since waste management is civic bodies’ primary responsibility, support by producers can help ensure more sustainable waste management practices. The solution to India’s problems with plastic waste can be addressed through targeted investments in recycling and ensuring sustained effort to cut down consumption.