The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released a draft EPR policy for the management of plastic waste in India on October 6, 2021. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a critical policy mechanism that helps advance the circular economy, decreases the environmental im- pact from a product and its packaging, and promotes the principle of “polluter pays” by holding the producer accountable for the entire lifecycle of the product.
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 introduced the concept of EPR to manage plastics in India. While the EPR is at a nascent stage in the Indian sub-continent, the last five years have failed to translate policy into action, due to the lack of accountability from the producers and lack of enforcement from the authorities. The latest draft rules have managed to take a small step in the right direction.
The objectives of EPR
• Integration of Environmental Costs
• Improved Waste Management
• Reduction of Disposal
• Reduction of the burden on Municipalities
• Design of Environmentally Sound Products
- It financially encourages manufacturers to design for recycling and make products last longer When producers face either the financial or physical burden of recycling their electronics after use, they may be incentivized to design more sustainable, less toxic, and more easily recyclable electronics. Using fewer materials and designing products to last longer can directly reduce producers’ end-of-life costs. Thus, extended producer responsibility is often cited as one way to fight planned obsolescence, because it financially encourages manufacturers to design for recycling and make products last longer.
- The pressures placed on governments may be alleviated By allocating part of the financial responsibility for paying and managing waste on the producer, the pressures placed on governments may be alleviated. Placing responsibility on producers to dispose of their products can give governments more freedom to create legislation that benefits sustainability with little cost to both parties, while also raising awareness about the issues EPR seeks to solve.
- EPR policy puts pressure on countries that export their E-waste to deal with the waste It becomes more and more effective as the EPR policy puts pressure on countries that export their E-waste. The regulation of this E-waste forces infrastructure to deal with the waste or implement new ways of creating products from the producers. As more countries adopt these policies it restricts others countries from ignoring the issues.
For example, when China stopped importing E-waste from the U.S., a buildup of waste was formed at ports. The lack of infrastructure around recycling E-waste in the US has been possible because of the ability to export and the negligence of producers. The pressure of this growing dump of E-waste forces countries to have their own infrastructure and will force more regulations from the government, state and federal, to be placed on producers.
- The mandate would slow innovation and impede technological progress Such laws could increase the cost of electronics because producers would add recycling costs into the initial price tag. When companies are required to transport their products to a recycling facility, it can be expensive if the product contains hazardous materials and does not have a scrap value, such as with CRT televisions, which can contain up to five pounds of lead. Organizations and researchers against EPR claim that the mandate would slow innovation and impede technological progress. Manufacturers may use takeback programs to take secondhand electronics off the reuse market, by shredding rather than reusing or repairing goods that come in for recycling.
- EPR policies are not accelerating environmentally-friendly designs EPR policies are not accelerating environmentally-friendly designs because “manufacturers are already starting to move toward reduced material-use per unit of output, reduced energy use in making and delivering each product, and improved environmental performance.”
- EPR is not clear in the way fees are established for the particular recycling processes The Reason Foundation argues that EPR is not clear in the way fees are established for the particular recycling processes. Fees are set in place to help incentivize recycling, but this may deter the use of manufacturing with better materials for the different electronic products. There are no set fees for certain materials, so confusion occurs when companies do not know what design features to include in their devices.
Impacts of the Draft EPR Policy
- Brand owners and e-commerce players have been brought under the ambit of EPR
- EPR is now applicable to both pre-consumer and post-consumer plastic packaging waste
- Producers and brand owners (PIBO) have finally been assigned targets for the collection of plastic waste that they put out on the market
- Provisions and targets for collection, re-use (by brand owners), recycling (by PIBOs), and use of recycled plastic (By PIBOs) have been laid out
- Biannual plastic characterization studies
- Include the first principle of waste management Plastic waste reduction/minimization-in the EPR mandate
- Compostable and biodegradable plastics should have an EPR mandate of collection and processing
- Ambiguity around the action plan to be submitted by PIBOs
- Inclusion of the informal sector in the draft EPR