In India, more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste is produced daily, nearly 40% of which is not collected and messes with the environment. People are moving towards the harmful impacts of plastic on land and marine life. If plastics demand follows its current trajectory, global plastics-waste volumes would grow from 260 Metric tons per year in 2016 to 460 Metric tons per year by 2030. Pressure is now mounting on brands and manufacturers to take responsibility for the vast amounts of plastic they produce. Thus, governments must step up and enforce laws to combat this crisis.
What is EPR?
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach in which manufacturers are given substantial accountability for the management or removal of products after usage. Allocating such responsibility provides incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals. Under EPR regulations, accountable companies must diminish the environmental impacts of their manufactured goods during their complete lifespan.
The objectives of EPR are as follows:
· Addition of environmental costs
· Enhanced management of waste
· Reduction of throwing away waste
· Decreasing the load of collection and disposal on local municipalities
· Designing environmentally sound products which pollute the environment less
EPR Compliance in India
The Guidelines on EPR on Plastic Packaging have been posted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. With dated June 1, 2022, the rules on extended producer responsibility, as well as the ban of designated single-use plastic goods with limited usefulness and severe polluting capability, are essential measures in reducing emissions produced by discarded plastic waste generated in the country. The Guidelines lay a foundation for strengthening the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, accelerating the innovation of novel plastic replacements, and laying out further steps for enterprises to move towards sustainable plastic packaging. To minimize the consumption of new plastic material for packaging, the standards require the reusing of solid plastic packaging. The legal framework need for a minimum standard of recycled plastic packaging waste collected under the EPR, as well as the usage of recycled plastic material, would minimize plastic use and promote the recycling of plastic wrapping trash. The guidelines for EPR will aid in the codification and expansion of the plastic recycling industry. The rules enable the buying and selling of excess EPR certificates, providing a pricing mechanism for handling waste for the very first time. EPR will be implemented via a tailored website online by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that will function as the system’s electronic infrastructure for registering & filing annual reports. The online portal will allow organizations to monitor and control their EPR responsibilities, as well as lessen their regulatory burdens by allowing them to register and file yearly filings digitally. The recommendations have specified a method of validation and auditing of firms to ensure that EPR responsibilities are met. The Guidelines establish a framework for levying environmental compensation based on the polluter pays concept in cases when developers, importers, and big brands fail to meet extended producer responsibility standards, with both the goal of protecting and enhancing the atmosphere and avoiding, regulating and mitigating pollution. The cash raised will be used to acquire, recycle, and dispose of unrecovered plastic debris in an ecologically responsible manner. In preventing the mixture of plastic trash with solid garbage, manufacturers, distributors, and product manufacturers may implement strategies including deposit refund systems, buybacks, or any other model.
Plastics have all been categorized into four main types under the new regulations: solid plastic packaging, pliable plastic packaging of a thin layer or multilayered (more than one layer containing various plastic types), plastic sheets and coverings made from plastic sheets, carry bags, plastic sachets or envelopes. Multi-layered plastic packaging (at minimum one layer of plastic as well as a minimum of one layer of material apart from plastic) will fall under category three, however plastic sheets or similar used for packing, and also biodegradable plastic carry bags, would come within category four. The EPR also included standards for recycling, regeneration, the utilization of recycled plastic components, and the later part management of non-recyclable plastic packaging.
Manufacturers, distributors, large retailers, and waste plastic converters must disclose information of recycling certifications exclusively from certified recycling centers, as well as the volume sent out for final disposal, by June 30 of the following fiscal year, by presenting yearly reports on the website. According to the announcement, plastic packaging manufacturers will be required to handle 35% of the ‘Q1’ waste in metric tonnes in 2021-22. Q1 is computed by summing the average weights of sold plastic packing materials and which was before plastic packaging trash during the previous two years and subtracting the yearly volume of packaging given to commercial entities. The advisory also included an EPR objective of 70 percent in 2022-23 and 100 percent beginning in 2023-24. Similar EPR objectives apply to importers and brand owners, however, the amount will vary based on how much packaging waste they are liable for. All of the same dates apply to commercial entities and importing businesses. The recycling requirements for producers would be 50% for hard plastic in 2024-25, 60% in 2025-26, 70% in 2026-27, and 80% beginning in 2027-28.
How will a corporation approach the given guideline, as illustrated with an example? If an e-commerce company is required by the notice to recycling 200 tonnes of flexible plastic packaging sheets, it can simply gather a similar quantity of plastic packaging anywhere and, have it recycled, and receive a certificate for it. This will result in the development of a market for plastic collection and recycling. Recycling certificates can also be exchanged.
As per the notification, a committee will be set up, which will be chaired by the CPCB chairman and have other concerned ministries such as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of MSME, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, State Pollution Control Boards, NEERI, and others.
What can companies do for reducing Plastics in the workplace?
The most important concern confronting our world is plastic pollution. Although many companies have taken efforts to limit their use of plastic, we must not stop there. Single-use plastics pollute our rivers and harm critical environments. Addressing this issue is no longer a choice, but rather a need. It can be done in the following ways:
· Purchase smarter
Enterprises rarely consider sustainable and environmental workplace products a top priority. Many people prefer efficiency over sustainability. And because most of these things are made out of plastic or wrapped in it, perhaps this is a costly error. Plastic purchases are sometimes inevitable. However, when you begin to make the move to a greener way of life and work, choosing recyclable plastic may make a significant impact.
· Provide water stations
Implementing water stations inside the workforce may appear to be a minor operation, but it does have substantial advantages. Employees are urged to bring in reusable water bottles instead of purchasing single-use ones every day because safe drinking water is easily accessible. Plastic contamination in their ecosystem is projected to harm over 1.1 million marine birds and animals each year. And single-use plastics contribute significantly to this garbage. So, being able to eliminate discarded bottles daily is a significant positive step for any organization.
· Think reusable
Supplying your workforce with a variety of reusable cutlery and tableware will significantly reduce your company’s plastic waste. Maintaining cups, glass, and silverware in the workplace cafeteria can help to limit the quantity of single-use plastic consumed and discarded daily. Disposable bottles and food containers not just reduce your environmental effect, but they may also save your employees money in the long run. Purchasing reusable products eliminates the need to purchase items that must be replaced regularly.
· Encourage eco-habits within the workplace
Implementing programs in the workspace allows employees to strive toward sustainability while receiving additional benefits. Periodic assignments are an excellent approach to engaging staff in the company’s sustainability goals while also providing a prize. Employees are educated as to how easily eco-habits can be adopted regularly by creating recycling programs and promoting the usage of reusables. Being more eco-conscious in the workplace and as a business inspires more environmentally concerned customers to explore your services or goods.
How can companies reduce the use of plastics in their supply chain?
Single-use plastic products (SUPPs) may be convenient, but the public and natural healthcare harm they inflict via manufacture, transport, and littering makes them a huge issue. The combustion of plastic garbage, the ingestion of plastic-contaminated seafood, and the production of dangerous microplastics are only a few of the factors why the planet remains filthy. Following are some ways to reduce waste:
· Determination of recyclable options
Emphasizing reusable materials is also not essential for sustainable development wellbeing, but it may also save money. Businesses that enable customers to bring their totes, mugs, or boxes save money on SUPP-related production and distribution costs, and consumers avoid having to pay extra for shopping bags or containers. Cotton and non-woven polyester grocery bags, as well as disposable and mobile plastics and stainless containers, mugs, and utensils, are becoming more popular. Personal hygiene goods, such as silicone menstruation cups and cloth nappies, are also becoming more reusable.
· Change from ‘single-use’ into ‘multi-use’
What if a product is reused, the less of an influence it has on the environment. When customers are unable to resist utilizing SUPPs, they can reduce their ecological footprint by using them wherever feasible rather than throwing them away. Durable single-use plastic bags, bottles, cups, dinnerware, and take-away food packaging, for example, may be reused or recycled. Single-use equivalents constructed of other substances are not fundamentally superior, which means that should be used wherever possible. For example, a cotton carrier bag will need to be used 4 to 8 times before it has the same impact on the environment as a single-use trash bag.
· Create goods with a focus on circular logic and final considerations.
Customers must not bear the whole burden of mitigating the effects of SUPP. Goods must be developed and should be both lightweight and robust to optimize recyclability, driven by policymaker and retailer actions. Manufacturing must be environmentally friendly, for example, by using renewable energy and recyclable materials. Another strategy to lessen the environmental effect of items across their life cycle is to buy locally and minimize air-freight shipped products. Finally, later part implications should be addressed such that goods that could no longer be utilized could be recycled or disposed of in an ecologically sustainable manner.