Draft extended producer responsibility policy: How gaps in achieving fundamental goals can be closed

News: MoEFCC has released a draft EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) policy for management of plastic waste in India.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 introduced the concept of EPR to manage plastics in India.

It has seen inadequate progress in the last five years as the policy failed to translate into action, due to the lack of accountability of the producers and lack of enforcement from the authorities.

The latest draft rules have managed to take a small step in the right direction. However, the rules lack on certain parameters.

What are the gaps and flaws in draft rules?

Firstly, Plastic waste reduction / minimisation is neglected in rules. The ‘polluter pays’ principle, thus, failed to translate to policy. Though the PWM Rules, 2016, mandate the generators to minimise generation of plastic waste. However, it is not applicable to the PIBOs (Producers and brand owners).

Secondly, compostable or biodegradable plastic is not under the ambit of EPR. India should have an EPR mandate of collection and processing of the same.

Globally, 1% of the entire plastics produced are from non-fossil sources and are bio-degradable. India generates more than 250 tonnes of compostable and biodegradable plastic every day.

This plastic needs to be sent to industrial composting facilities and not be composted at home or littered in the environment. This doesn’t find mention in the policy document. Also, these facilities itself are not available in India.

Thirdly, no standardised format of how an action plan is to be submitted by PIBOs. It is mandatory for PIBOs to submit an action plan, according to the draft EPR policy. However, due to ambiguity of words, it will result in a non-standardised action plan submitted by various PIBOs, which will not be comparable.

Fourthly, the centralised portal developed by CPCB can only be accessed by the PIBO’s, recyclers, pollution control boards.

Plastic waste processors are supposed to disclose the total amount of plastic waste handled on their website, while the PIBOs, have not been directed to disclose the amount of plastic they placed in the market.

This has effectively left PIBO’s on their own to ‘green’ their image in the market.

Fifthly, the informal sector’s waste recycling operations are unlicensed and unregulated, though their waste management operations generate a net profit. It doesn’t find mention in draft rules, too. Even though most of the plastics in India are channelised by the informal sector.

What is the way forward?

EPR policy should encourage the brand owners to diversify packaging material with alternatives such as paper, glass, metals, among other things.

Offering EPR certificates to the brand owners, who diversify their packaging, will also help the brands to develop a green image.

To promote compostable plastics and its bio-degradation, testing, certification and proper labelling become important.

India does have standards for compostable plastic (Schedule I of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2021). But the certification and labelling mechanism is very weak and needs to be addressed through policy.

A standard template, developed by CPCB in consultation with all the stakeholders, is a must. The standardised data, thus obtained, will be comparable across all the PIBOs. It will also help us verify and avoid duplication of data.

Source: This post is based on the article “Draft extended producer responsibility policy: How gaps in achieving fundamental goals can be closed” published in Down To Earth on 6th Dec 2021.

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