After the release of the Plastic Waste Management Rules in 2016, all plastic producers, importers and brand owners (PIBOs) were mandated with the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). However, EPR implementation proved to be quite unsatisfactory, except for those who had been collecting waste through PROs.
A Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) is a concept which originated in Europe, whereby the responsibility of producers in waste management is taken over by a PRO which aims to bring about efficiency and awareness. PROs can assist by achieving collection targets, establishing various waste collection mechanisms and centres like warehouses, arranging logistics, conducting awareness programs for collection and channelizing of waste, and providing an EPR plan as required legally.
In 2018, five PROs registered with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) namely IPCA, NEPRA Resource Management, NEPRA Environmental Solutions, GEM Enviro Management, and Shakti Plastic Industries. On having contacted IPCA regarding the same, the whole discussion of the current status of PROs in India had been presented with clarity. It was only in 2017 that ‘PRO’ had started being used as a generic term in India, and soon in 2018, CPCB had started to recognise a few, precisely 21, waste management agencies.
While producers seemed to be highly comfortable with the idea of PROs, the willingness of the government to support PROs seemed to be fidgety and no official guideline or SOP on the structure or working of PROs was released. Further, some were of the opinion that PROs would not provide as a sustainable approach for EPR compliance. Soon, CPCB withdrew this term and recognition from all those agencies, and they continued to be termed as waste management agencies, as before, in all official communication. Thus, the status of PROs in India has always been uncertain.