EPR For Plastic Packaging Waste Is A Step In The Right Direction But Has Set Impossible Targets.
The Union Environment Ministry last week notified the comprehensive guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging, aimed at moving towards eliminating single-use plastics.
According to the notification, the new guidelines shall come into force with immediate effect.
What does the guidelines say?
The new rules classify plastics into four categories- category one will include rigid plastic packaging; category two will include flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags, plastic sachets or pouches.
“The details provided by producers, importers and brand-owners and registered plastic waste processors will be cross-checked by the online portal,” it said.
“In case of difference, the lower figure would be considered towards fulfilment of EPR obligation of producers, importers and brand-owners. The certificates shall be subject to verification by Central Pollution Control Board or State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee, as the case may be,” it said.
The Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) said the government notification promotes a circular economy and gives clear direction to stakeholders.
"PWM (Amendment) Rules, 2022, is a welcome step to promote a circular economy and to strengthen the collection of plastic waste. This time, the rules and directions to each stakeholder are clearer," Ashish Jain, the director of IPCA said.
"The rules are not only talking about the collection but also focusing on reuse and recycling of plastic waste. A few new categories of plastic such as compostable, paper laminate, and metalized MLP are also included under EPR obligation which will help to develop the collection mechanism of such waste also," Jain said.
Producers of plastic packaging will have to manage 25% of the ‘Q1’ waste in metric tonnes in 2021-22.
Q1 is calculated by adding the last two years’ average weights of plastic packaging material sold and pre-consumer plastic packaging waste, and subtracting the annual quantity of plastic packaging supplied to brand owners.
The EPR target will be increased to 70% in 2022-23 and 100% from 2023-24 onwards. “Similar EPR targets apply for importers and brand owners but the quantity will be different depending upon the quantity of packaging waste they are responsible for,” the notification added. The recycling obligation for producers will be 50% for rigid plastics in 2024-25, 60% in 2025-26, 70% in 2026-27, and 80% from 2027-28 onwards. “Similar timelines also apply to brands and importers,” it said.
The notification also specified category-wise targets to be followed by the importer for minimum level (in percentage) of recycling (excluding end of life disposal) of plastic packaging waste collected under the extended producer responsibility Target. And it also mentioned category-wise mandatory use of recycled plastic in plastic packaging (percentage of imported plastic for the year) for the importers.
"It is a good initiative to have yearly targets for the stakeholders on specific types of plastics. It also becomes the government to monitor it. But the targets set in the EPR guidelines are very high. The EPR target for 2022-23 is 70%, the same for 2021-22 is 25%, which is a target that obligated parties have to meet in the next five weeks," Dr Habbu explained.
He, however, said that the EPR guidelines which envision reaching 50% recycling target are a step in the right direction.
Will affect small companies
According to him, the small companies in small cities will find it difficult to meet the targets.
Most big companies which already have some mechanism for EPR may be able to meet the targets, either directly or with the help of the Producer Responsibility Organisation. But the same cannot be said for a small company in a small city, at least in the first years," he said.
Data from the MoEF&CC stated that more than 3.4 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated in 2019-20 and 3.06 million tonnes in 2018-19.