New Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022 have been introduced by the Environment Ministry to give complete guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging. The rules will create a framework to reinforce the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, promote alternatives to plastic, and provide a roadmap for businesses to transition toward sustainable plastic packaging, according to the Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
What is EPR?
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a term that refers to the practice of assigning producers responsibility for the end-of-life management of products and materials. It has two basic objectives-
One of the key strengths of responsibility systems has been highlighted as the coverage of costs for collection, sorting, and recycling, since they can reduce the financial costs of waste management by easing the pressure on public finances. This has the potential to be a great benefit for developing countries because the incapacity of governmental or communal organisations to cover the entire cost of waste collection, sorting, and recycling makes it difficult to construct an effective waste management system.
While the EPR is a necessary and vital part of the solution to packaging waste and pollution, it is by itself insufficient and needs to be complemented by a wider set of policies, and voluntary industry action and innovation towards a circular economy for packaging.
The new amendment classifies plastics into four categories-
In the case of plastic packaging, the EPR covers reuse, recycling, utilisation of recycled plastic content, and end-of-life disposal by producers, importers, and brand owners, according to the EPR Guidelines. To limit the consumption of new plastic materials for packaging, the standards require the reuse of rigid plastic packaging materials.
EPR will be implemented through a customised online platform that will allow enterprises to track and monitor their EPR obligations while also reducing their compliance burden by allowing them to register and file annual returns online. The recommendations have specified a system of verification and audit of firms in order to verify that EPR responsibilities are met. It also enables the sale and acquisition of extended producer responsibility certificates that are no longer in use, which will promote formalization and further development of plastic waste management sector.
Producers, importers, and brand owners will be required to disclose information of recycling certifications only from registered recyclers, as well as the amount submitted for end-of-life disposal, by June 30 of the next fiscal year, while filing annual returns on the internet portal. The Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Board, or Pollution Control Committee, as the case may be, would verify these certifications. In the event of a difference, the lesser value would be utilised to meet the EPR requirements of producers, importers, and brand owners.
The Guidelines establish a framework for levying environmental compensation based on the ‘polluter pays principle’ when producers, importers, and brand owners fail to meet extended producer responsibility targets, with the goal of protecting and improving the environment and preventing, controlling, and abating pollution. The cash raised will be used for environmentally appropriate collection, recycling, and end-of-life disposal of uncollected plastic garbage. Producers, importers, and brand owners may use programmes like deposit refunds, buybacks, or any other model to avoid plastic packaging trash from being mixed with solid garbage.
The notification further stated that the importer must meet category-specific criteria for the minimum level of recycling of plastic packaging trash collected under the extended producer responsibility target. It also stated that importers must utilise recycled plastic in plastic packaging based on category (percentage of imported plastic for the year).
The government has also announced the formation of a committee to recommend measures to the environment ministry for effective implementation of EPR, including amendments to EPR guidelines, which will be constituted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the chairmanship of the CPCB chairman.
Furthermore, the government has recommended that the CPCB construct a centralised online platform by March 31 for producers, importers, brand owners, and plastic waste processors to register and file yearly returns of plastic packaging waste.
With effect from July 1, 2022, these rules on extended producer responsibility, as well as the prohibition of specified single-use plastic items with low usefulness and high littering potential, are key measures in reducing pollution caused by overflowing plastic waste in the country.
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