Is the Industry ready to implement Extended Producer Responsibility policies in India?
What is Extended Producer Responsibility?
The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is that the responsibility of the producer of a product is extended beyond conventional sales to its post-consumer or end-of-life (EOL) stage. This means that the producer is responsible for collection of the used products or packaging material and ensure its safe recycling or disposal.
Why do we need EPR ?
The idea behind EPR is to encourage producers to consider the end-of-life processing of their products right from the design stage. There by designing products which are long lasting and easily recyclable. There is a significant cost of collection and recycling of these waste which should be borne by the producer and not be passed on to the government or the environment.
Currently in India over 90% of all Electronic waste is managed by the informal sector with no safety measures or scientific recycling techniques.
Billions of multi layered plastics (MLP) (basically all our chips and biscuit packets) are either being burnt or dumped into our oceans and landfills causing serious health repercussions to animals and plants.
To counter this, we have certain EPR policies in India as described below requiring the producers of such materials to set up systems for collection and recycling.
EPR Policies in India
Currently India has EPR policies for Electronic waste and Plastic packaging waste.
The E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules 2011 introduced the concept of EPR for the first time in India. All producers of electronics like Phones, Computers, Washing Machines were responsible for setting up reverse logistics for collection of E-Waste and channelizing it to State Pollution Control Board authorized recyclers.
In March 2016, the E-Waste policy was amended with the new E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016 being notified by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change. The new rules set stringent targets for the producers to collect and recycle EOL products starting from 30% in the first two years and increasing to 70% by the seventh year while simplifying the process of applying for EPR Authorization.
The Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 also enforces EPR for plastic producers in the country and has banned the manufacturing of non-recyclable plastics in two years of implementation.
EPR Policies in other parts of the world
EPR is a popular concept in the western countries for different streams of materials. EPR for packaging materials exists in EU, Canada, and Germany. Similarly, EPR for automobiles in countries like Germany and Netherlands and EPR for paints in British Columbia have been in place for the past few years.
Organizations like Ellen Macarthur foundation based in the USA have been promoting the framework of a circular economy and its implementation across the world.
By publishing research documents outlining economic benefits, partnering with companies like H&M to design circular solutions, and running a $2M innovation prize to keep plastics out of the ocean, the foundation is demonstrating the seriousness of moving in the direction of building a circular economy which is at the heart of the concept of EPR.
Owing to the excellent work by the Central Pollution Control Board, over 150 electronic producers have applied for EPR Authorization and around 85 have received the authorization certificate. But there is still some resistance from the electronics Industry in accepting the policy stating that the targets are extremely ambitious and unreal given the Indian scenario.
The plastic manufacturers especially the multi layered plastic (MLP) manufacturers are yet to take any concrete steps in setting up a system for collection and channelling of their post-consumer packaging products.
Multi-layered plastics (MLP) are made up of a layered composition of various types of plastics with non-plastics such as aluminium foil. These are non recyclable and are currently polluting our soil and water bodies.
Proof of Concept
While there are various challenges in implementing EPR, there are also proactive producers like Tetra Pak who have been voluntarily collecting and recycling its packaging waste from across the country through channel partners for over 8 years.
They work with various stakeholders across the country including collection agencies and recyclers to develop the market for Tetra Pak recycling.
Tetra Pak cartons are being recycled into various products like Roofing sheets, Chipboards and stationery items.
Challenges in Implementation of EPR
- Segregation of waste at source will be key for resource recovery of EPR products. Producer companies will need to contribute significantly to improve awareness of source segregation and the need to recycle.
- Plastic waste and E-Waste are well spread across the country. There is a lack of formalized reverse logistics companies as setting up a collection network could be extremely complex and expensive.
- The informal sector manages around 90% of all these waste streams. Upgrading them into the formal means of responsible waste management while ensuring their adherence to compliances will be challenging.
- EPR policies should bring about effective collaborations between various stakeholders like the central and state government, producers, consumers as well as the informal sector to effectively mitigate the impact on climate change and pollution caused by these waste materials. Stringent EPR policies will be instrumental in ensuring implement the sacred 3R principle (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle) hence facilitating a circular economy.
- The inclusion of the informal sector would play a key role in the successful implementation of these policies. This will strongly influence better livelihood for the deserved community of Base of Pyramid Population and provide reliable careers in waste management industry.
- The onus is now on the producers, to take the required initiatives to address this growing problem. Producers need to contribute significantly and work with specialist collection partners to ensure large volumes of their EOL products are recovered through this reverse logistics network.