By Rupin Chopra and Apalka Bareja
Plastic waste management is an initiative to control the amount of plastic waste in the environment by adopting circular economy and other environmental-friendly disposal solution. It aims to ban plastic products which affordable alternatives are available, encourage plastic production with circular materials, and establish high uptake of recycled plastics.
Circular economy: Repositioning of the plastic waste and disposal
In a circular economy, resources are used in a more sustainable way by maintaining their use for as long as possible, thus extracting their maximum value, and then recovering and regenerating the materials at the end of their life. Under this scheme, materials are constantly cycled through the value chain for reuse, resulting in lower energy and resource consumption.
This initiative was started several years ago in Europe, mainly focusing on reusing or recycling plastic waste entering earth’s environment. This initiative soon reached other parts of the world and have now become an integral part of global plastic manufacturers’ strategy. More than 65% of plastic waste is expected to be left unattended, either in large landfills or simply left in the natural environment, which develops to be the biggest source of plastic pollution. Currently, only 16% of plastic waste is recycled.
In India approximately 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day. Approximately 10,556 tonnes of this waste remains uncollected and thus reaches landfills or is thrown on the streets. The new guidelines on EPR aim to provide brands and manufacturers with directions to manage extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation. The laws make it mandatory for companies to collect-back and recycle their plastic. The new guidelines provide a robust framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste and will pave the direction for businesses to move towards sustainable plastic packaging.
Extended Producers Responsibility
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced the national framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. Extended Producer Responsibility is an approach where the producer is mandated via policy for treatment and/or disposal of plastic packaging waste. It is proved that 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.
Key Highlights of extended producer responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging
- The EPR framework is broken up into three segments – each suited to small, medium or large businesses. The three models are officially called: fee-based model, Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) model and credit model. PROs are third party entities that manage waste on behalf of manufacturers.”
- The guidelines on extended producer responsibility coupled with prohibition of identified single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, with effect from 1st July 2022, are important steps for reducing pollution caused due to littered plastic waste in the country which is in line and essential in order to meet the target to cut carbon emissions by 2030 with respect to the Paris Agreement.
- The policy mandates to reuse rigid plastic packaging material and to reduce the use of fresh plastic material for packaging. Further, the new norms will increase the quality and standard as the guidelines allow for sale and purchase of surplus extended producer responsibility certificates, carry forward and offsetting against previous year EPR targets and obligations, thus formalizing the sector and developing up a market scenario for better plastic waste management.
- As per the new norms, small manufacturers have to contribute to a local body that recycles small amounts of plastics. Medium and large scale manufacturers that do not have experience and expertise in recycling can hire Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO’s), and during this period of transition to the new framework, these businesses can hire ‘Plastics For Change’ as a PRO.
- The new norms will impose an ‘Environmental Compensation’ which shall be levied on the basis of Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). The guidelines same shall be laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board.
- The whole process of implementation of EPR norms including registration, filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand owners and the registration of PROs as well will be administered through a customized centralized online portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board. The certificate of registration and filing will also be done using the same portal.
These new guidelines will come in effect 1st July 2022 onwards and will improve the condition of plastic waste management and hopefully reduce the amount of plastics utilized in the packaging of products.