Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a mechanism in which producers are responsible for the end-of-life collection, recycling, or disposal of products that they manufactured. In the 2022 Rules issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC), these products include any and all types of plastics used to package foods and beverages.
The crux of EPR is based on the ‘polluters pays’ principle. A target of 70% has been set for the year 2022-23 for all Producers, Importers, and Brand Owners (PIBOs). These guidelines not only provide a framework to strengthen circularity in the plastic packaging waste economy but also promote the development of new alternatives to plastics. They provide a comprehensive roadmap for businesses to move towards sustainable plastic packaging.
The Plastic Waste Management (PWM) 2022 amendment has proposed the categorization of use plastics into the following four types:
Flexible plastics with single and multiple plastic layers;
Multi-layered plastic packaging where at least one layer is non-plastics, such as Tetra Pak and Uflex cartons; and
As an environmental protection strategy, EPR is mandatory in India and as per the latest notification, registration would be compulsory. This essentially means that no entity, be it a producer or importer, can carry out any business without registering itself first.
But where to register and how will it work?
A centralized EPR portal has been developed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with separate modules for Plastic Waste Processors (PWP) and Producers, Importers and Brand Owners (PIBOs) for self-registration.
Applications filed by PWPs will be transferred to the concerned SPCB/PCC for further processing on the same portal. The same has to be done within 15 days.
Within 30 days of the grant of registration, a physical audit of the PWP is to be completed by SPCB/PCC.
PWPs will provide certificates for plastic waste processing to PIBOs , except in the case of the use of plastic waste in road construction.
A brand owner who goes beyond its targets and creates a surplus can use the same for any of the following -
(i) Offsetting the previous year's shortfall ;
(ii) Carry forward for use in the succeeding year;
(iii) Sell it to other Producers, Importers & Brand-Owners
The PWP and PIBOs shall submit annual returns after the end of every financial year on the quantity of plastic waste processed category-wise on the portal.
The details provided by PIBOs and registered PWPs will be cross-checked by the online portal. In case of difference, the lower figure would be considered towards the fulfillment of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligation.
Targets and obligations of Producers, Importers & Brand-Owners:
The Extended Producer Responsibility targets (in Metric Tonnes) category-wise, as applicable, shall be submitted by the PIBO, as part of its Action Plan on the centralized portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board.
In stage 1, PIBOs are expected to take back 25% of their material by 2021-22 followed by 70% by 2022-23 and 100% by 2023-24.
The minimum level of recycling may vary from 30-50% for all four categories of plastic for the year 2024-2025.
Plastics, which cannot be recycled will be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, waste to oil, cement kilns (for co-processing), etc. as per relevant guidelines issued by Indian Road Congress.
The PIBOs shall ensure the use of recycled plastic in plastic packaging category-wise varies between 5 to 30% by 2025-2026.
Provision for compensation
An environmental Compensation shall be levied on PIBOs based on the polluter pays principle, with respect to nonfulfilment of its Extended Producer Responsibility targets. The compensation will be levied by CPCB or SPCB depending upon the operating area. The funds collected under environmental compensation shall be kept in a separate Escrow account by CPCB or SPCB. The funds collected shall be utilized in the collection, recycling, and end-of-life disposal of uncollected and non-recycled or non-end of life disposal of plastic packaging waste, on which the environmental compensation is levied.
These rules have been set at a time when India is pushing for a legally binding global treaty to end plastic pollution at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). Taking a lead, India has also set a target of banning single-use plastics by 1 July this year. What remains to be seen is how this ambitious policy enfolds.
Written by Environment Intern Jasmine Dhingra