What is EPR?

Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR is a policy under which producers are deemed responsible for managing their products—underlining with collection and recycling of post-consumer waste. It works with Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO), wherein the producers are required to collect their generated wastes. 

The practice was introduced to shift the economic burden of waste disposal from the government to the product producer. 

Extended producer responsibility facilitated the manufacturing of environmentally friendly products, condemning the use of toxic elements. Heeding this front has assisted in better waste management solutions and in recovering the resources infused in the waste. 

Components of a good EPR model

Several brands and companies are implementing the Extended Producer Responsibility program as a part of their sales and system. Here is what frames a good EPR model:

  • Social Inclusion: Good EPR models must design with innovative social inclusion wherein general waste workers can meet compliance costs via incentives against delivering results.
  • Reverse logistics: A robust reverse supply chain jots as another key element enabling active transportation of post-consumer waste to the concerned authorities. 
  • Public Awareness: Next, it shall conduct awareness programs, including collection drives, social media campaigns, and corporate events.

Categories of waste under the EPR program 

The EPR plan formulates management of different types of wastes, which include:

Electronic Waste

The electronic waste consists of discarded electronic devices. These usually contain heavy and toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead that cannot be disposed of easily. And as per the records, over 20-50 lakh tonnes of e-waste is generated worldwide every year.

The EPR program aims for better management by properly collecting, recovering, and recycling the e-waste using appropriate methods and techniques.

Plastic Waste

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) 

PET is widely used as the packaging material and has been a significant cause of environmental pollution. EPR works to collect the PET waste from the producers and direct it to the recycling plants. Herein, it is converted into polyester yarns to make products like shirts, bags, or caps.

Multi-layered Plastic (MLP)

MLP combines with different materials like paper, paper boards, polymeric materials, metalized layers, or aluminum foil, wherein plastic layers as the main element. Several companies use MLPs for packaging snacks and other perishables. But not enough has been executed concerning its disposal.  EPR follows with sustainable solutions to recycle MLPs and manage this widely littered waste.

Advantages of Extended Producer Responsibility 

  • EPR promotes recycling and the use of refurbished goods to redeem exhaustible resources.
  • Reduces the practice of other harmful waste disposal methods like burning or burying the generated waste, which acts as the leading cause of air and land pollution.
  • Emphasize the use of clean and prudent ways of waste management, safeguarding the environment.
  • Enables producers to procure secondary material from their own supply chain. 
  • Eases the efforts of local municipalities that calls for physical and financial requirements for waste management.
  • Encourages the producers to formulate product designs with increased recyclability by sharing the costs integrated with waste disposal to the producers.
  • The increased demand for environmentally friendly products with fewer toxic materials helps a company expand its customer base.

How Is EPR Executed In India?

With a population of more than a billion people and initiatives such as Digital India, the nation has become a massive market for technology manufacturers. The prerequisite for using any electronic service is an electronic device, and thus, the amount of products we’re buying is staggeringly high. 

In the new era of upgrades, everyone is in a vicious cycle of buying more unique products and disposing of them right away. However, the consumer base pays little to no attention to procedures of disposing of their goods. 

Electronic waste is a massive problem in India. The country is one of the top five countries in terms of its e-waste generation. To combat this issue, the government introduced laws about EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) to hold producers responsible for waste management related to their products. 

How is EPR put into practice?

The extended producer responsibility contains three liabilities, and the extent of these liabilities comes under the legislation. They are – 

  1. Economic Responsibility
  2. Physical Responsibility 
  3. Informative Responsibility

The three-part structure less than a decade old, and the three liabilities mentioned above hold jurisdiction in different areas. It is crucial to understand these terms and their functioning. Let’s go through them one by one. 

Economic Responsibility

Economic responsibility means that the producer has to bear all or part of the expenses for waste management activities. The scope of the activities includes — but is not limited to — collection, recycling, and final disposal of products manufactured by them. 

There is some freedom involved in the mode of payment of these expenses. The producer may pay these expenses directly or in the form of a special fee. 

Physical Responsibility

This term is used to accommodate the structures and frameworks where the producer is directly/indirectly involved in the physical management of the e-waste generated from their products. 

The manufacturer can also retain ownership of his product throughout its lifecycle and hence, can be held liable for the environmental impact caused by it and working on remediating it.

Informative Responsibility 

Informative responsibility contains several different cases to extend liability for the products by making it mandatory for the producers to supply information on the environmental properties of the products they are manufacturing.

It allows the consumer to be more informed about their products’ environmental impact and, hence, will enable them to make informed purchases and not endorse products with a high environmental impact. 

India’s EPR framework

India came out with its framework for executing EPR quite recently. It provides producers and corporations with instructions to manage producer responsibility legislation. Its laws make it mandatory for organizations to collect-back and recycle their plastic material. 

For further ease of implementation, the EPR framework is divided into three parts — each made to accommodate small, medium, and large businesses. 

Small-scale producers make monetary payments to an EPR fund that pays local bodies to recycle the plastic produced by these companies. Medium and large businesses who don’t have experience in recycling are encouraged to hire Producer Responsibility Organisations, or PROs to manage their recycling and waste management targets.