Introduction: Extended Producer Responsibility
Extended producer responsibility simply relates to the producer’s responsibility with respect to managing the product until its end of life in such a way that adopts environmentally sound practices.
As given under the Environment Protection Act, of 1986, numerous rules have been notified on a periodical basis by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and climate change that lays down issues related to the manufacturing of plastic and its waste management.
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The year 2016 witnessed the incoming of plastic waste management rules, 2016. These rules highlight the Polluters pay principle with major emphasis on the extended producer responsibility. Besides this, these rules mention the roles and responsibilities of almost all entities that deal with the product and its disposal. They may include waste generators, local bodies and other recycling and processing facilities.
The concept of EPR emerged with the concerted efforts of a man named Thomas Lindquist in the year 1990. This concept thrusts the careful end-of-life management of the product in the hands of the manufacturer or the producer. Germany became the first country to successfully launch the scheme related to EPR in the year of 1991. Following it, many other countries came forward and showcased the implementation of the said scheme. It proved to be beneficial in managing almost all types of waste streams.
Organization for economic cooperation and Development has played a significant role in defining EPR. It considers EPR as an approach in alignment with the environmental policy wherein the responsibility of the producer in respect of a product is seen to be extended to its end-of-life management.
The quintessential attribute of the EPR policy lies in the product’s end-of-life management carried out in a sustainable manner. This policy entails a shift in the burden of managing waste, especially plastic, from the shoulders of the taxpayers and local bodies to that of the manufacturers or producers. This stems from the complex nature of the plastic products. Apart from the finished products, the plastic packaging that is widely used is also posing a threat owing to its complexity.
It cannot be denied that the producers are the ones that have the ultimate control over the production of plastic packaging, therefore municipalities must not be made responsible. Also the very fact that the EPR policy presents opportunities for the producers to work on redesigning their products into sustainable ones, is in itself a viable option and seems to encourage them.
EPR in India is a fairly newer concept and therefore it would require great amounts of effort and attention by the stakeholders to turn it into a successful venture.
EPR and Plastic Waste Management Rules in India
India embraces fully functional recycling markets that invariably look after the proper treatment and disposal of plastic waste that too in a sustainable manner. Despite such a facility, the recycling sector is very much informal in its approach with a lot of obstacles. This in turn chops off the efficiency of plastic waste management. Further, human health is largely affected by the rapid use of these informal techniques and methods.
Waste plastic finds its source of origin in factories, industrial plants and other godowns. A clear understanding of plastic waste can be obtained if we look at it either at the pre-consumer level or its production following the industrial process.
The real issue at hand is related to the waste plastic packaging that is left discarded after the use by the consumers. This largely includes polybags. This is where the role of EPR surfaces in managing such waste effectively.
Waste management in India is majorly looked at by the local bodies and the municipalities, whose role cannot be denied. However, owing to the complex nature of the waste streams and their relatively large presence calls for technical expertise and managerial practices. This can be ensured by inculcating extended producer responsibility.
With the presence of EPR, the following things can be ensured:
- EPR would help in reducing the burden on the municipalities, especially in monetary terms since the responsibility of waste management would be shifted on the shoulders of the producers.
- Through the introduction of the EPR policy, the producers can be encouraged by providing them with incentives. This will in turn drive them to bring innovation in their product design with greater emphasis on eco-friendly ideas.
- This will no doubt, boost and fuel the present infrastructure pertaining to the recycling sector and waste management facilities.
- In addition, a major change would become evident when EPR policy would trigger the informal sector to embrace more formal methods.
Hence it can be said that the EPR would not only inject a revolutionary mechanism but at the same time would give a boost to the plastic waste management system. Plastic waste can be managed in a more responsible way with the assistance of the EPR, in the following ways:
- In the very first place, innovation in design can lead to the minimization of the amount of plastic waste that accumulates in landfills and water bodies.
- With the EPR policy in place, segregation of the waste would be carried out at its place of origin which would make the further process very easy.
- In addition, waste can be easily subjected to being processed and recycled using material recovery facilities and other innovative technologies.
- Also, to have more clear results, incentives can be provided to the waste pickers. This would encourage them.
Implementation of EPR: Guide for Producers
EPR finds its applicability throughout the nation and covers under its realm all the producers. The producer is relatively a bigger term that includes different owners of the brands and importers. To be precise, the producer can mean any entity, individual or industry as given below:
- Any entity that is well engrossed in the business that manufactures polybags or sheets of plastic would mean a producer.
- Any entity that carries out the import business with respect to the manufacturing of plastic would fall under the meaning of producer.
- If there is the import of any commodity that entails plastic packaging would fall under the meaning of producer.
- The entity that invariably makes use of plastic sheets or other plastic material for packaging would fall under the meaning of producer.
Hence, it can be said that the term producer is a bigger term that only includes manufacturers but also brand owners and importers.
The EPR policy as laid down under the Plastic waste management rules, 2016 resolves to solve the issues created by plastic waste, especially the carry bags that are dominantly used by almost everyone. The EPR framework governs all the plastic waste categories, be it rigid or flexible. All the grades of plastics are touched upon the EPR policy.
When talking about producers, the first thing that comes to our minds is the action plan that they seek to follow. In short and crisp terms, the plan must include the details about the model that would lay down the collection scheme and also lay due regard to the strategy related to the sustainable disposal of the plastic product or the plastic packaging material.
It should be made a point that the plastics that can be recycled must be sent to the recycling centers while the plastics that cannot be recycled must be subjected to other processes like that of pyrolysis or it may be used in mix with the bitumen to make roads. The non-recyclable plastics can also be used in a process to yield fuel.
To be able to meet up to the expectations that fulfil the EPR obligations, the responsibility is thrown in the hands of the stakeholders like PIBO that can be done on an individual basis or can be carried out on a collective basis, whichever is suitable. Waste management agencies can be made an integral part while trying to meet the EPR targets. This would hasten up the process.
Producers’ liability within the EPR framework must be calculated on the basis of the quantum of their commodities that enters the market either in the form of plastic products or plastic packaging.
When paying heed to the EPR implementation, it must be pinpointed that it must not restrict itself to few urban areas rather its impact must be felt in rural areas as well. It can be done when considerable knowledge is ingrained in the minds of people regarding its importance.
The EPR action plan as set out by the producers is very much required to be endorsed by the UDD secretary of the respective state. In case the responsibility is divided among the entities, the EPR action plan must make a crystal clear mention of it.
The ultimate focus of the producer must eye on the strategies to fulfil the set-out targets. The producer must be least bothered with the model type. In this way, EPR compliance would be critically evaluated without any problem.
Implementation of the EPR policy must run parallel to the provisions put forth by the plastic waste management rules, 2016. Due adherence and prime importance has to be given to the provisions of the above-mentioned rules and all the EPR plans must be formulated within its umbrella.
EPR credits, irrespective of the associated models, must be issued only when it is related to the collection and disposal of waste plastic. It must be noted that the EPR credits would be duly issued only in respect of post-consumer plastic waste. It has no relation to pre-consumer plastic.
EPR Implementation: Global Scenario
EPR policy in global terms, has witnessed implementation in respect of different types of waste streams that run from discarded electronic gadgets to end-of-life vehicles. Lead acid batteries are also included in its preview.
EPR scheme and associated policy has played an instrumental role worldwide. Waste streams are turning to be utilized in recovering useful materials. Many countries have made EPR a necessary ingredient in their indigenous policies and laws.
On the other hand, voluntary implementation of the EPR is restricted to the product categories wherein the products are taken back by the firms since it is a highly profitable venture for them.
EPR entails implementation either on an individual level or can be done on a collective basis by the producers through the mechanism that finds its basis on the producer responsibility organizations also called as PRO.
EPR in countries like Austria is implemented based on a dual model wherein the responsibility is called to shoulder by the producers whereas in countries like the UK a tradable credit system is well in place.
Extended producer responsibility has been adopted by many countries and is backed up by many success stories. By adopting the EPR policy, it can be assured that the producer would be pushed to bring innovative packaging designs and make them more responsible in relation to the production, collection and disposal of the plastic product.
This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not corpseed, and have not been evaluated by corpseed for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.
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