The Concrete Truth of EPR Demystified!

A circular economy is a system where everything that is produced & given away in the environment, is taken back and rebuilt for another use. Nothing goes as ‘waste’.

Approximately 6 million tonnes of plastic waste goes un-recycled every year in our country. Half of it is single-use or use & throw plastic. A disheartening share goes disposed of in our oceans which puts India among the top 20 countries that dump maximum plastic in marine water bodies. 

This brings us to Plastic Waste Management, the only option to tackle a ticking time-bomb. In the last 20 years or so, recycling has come of age and business sector initiatives in the movement forward have been remarkable. 

Backed by the Indian government, the strategy to remanufacture plastic products once used has made its way into our legislation. The concept is known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and it focuses on increasing the amount and degree of product recovery to minimize the environmental impact of waste plastics.

What is EPR?

The Extended Producer Responsibility policy goes back 31 years ago when it was first introduced by Thomas Lindhqvist in a report to the Swedish Ministry of Environment in 1990. The report was the result of a calculative analysis done to improve the management of end-of-life products and eventually promote cleaner production. 

Soon it spread across the world and in India, EPR policy found its place in Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. However, does it detail the business model for the collection of waste and help it reach the right people who take care of its fate? Let’s see further in this article.

Liability for Producers, Importers & Brand Owners under EPR 

The objective of EPR is to encourage product manufacturers to take responsibility for their product’s life cycle and the environmental impact caused by waste plastics thus, minimizing the effects by opting for ethical ways. 

It is essentially a take-back scheme to promote the collection, recycling, and final disposal of all products. In simplest words, EPR extends the responsibility of brand owners up to the entire life cycle of the production chain – from cradle to grave.

Who recycles the plastic you generate, for you?

India has forever relied on rag pickers, kabadiwalas, or scrap dealers to meet our country’s waste collection target. This implies that most of our plastic recycling business is handled by the informal sector. Talking in numbers, it goes as high as 95%. 

What stops brands from recycling then?

Firstly, since most of the recycling in India is handled by the informal sector, the dearth of proper recycling infrastructure makes operational and locational aspects for both producers and coprocessors critical. It may not be economically viable and physically feasible for brand owners to connect with waste recyclers either individually or collectively. 

The challenge of identifying authorized recyclers is also a setback. Whether the certificate provided for recycling of the plastics they own is authentic, leaves brands often puzzled. This makes room for third-parties who try to meddle in between trying to cut their share, in turn increasing the final price. 

The dire need to formalize the plastic recycling process leads to the conceptualization of a platform where all stakeholders across the Plastic Waste Management can simply connect like a digital marketplace where you come, buy, pay & receive the relevant documentation.

How does EcoEx get to play the changemaker?

The above challenges inspire the conceptualization of EcoEx – a digital marketplace where fulfilling your EPR obligations through plastic recycling and obtaining authentic plastic credit is as simple and transparent as ordering a product from any e-commerce portal. 

Our digital marketplace gives brands an option to directly tie-up with a pool of accredited coprocessors after an easy registration process. Price discovery for a specifically weighed to-be-recycled plastic becomes transparent through online auctions. Brand owners can track and trace the details of their transactions while the threat of duplicity is addressed seriously as the system does not allow duplication of Plastic Credit Certificates in any way.

Our business model works on the government’s guidelines & the recent amendments in plastic waste management rules. Additionally, we have detailed the entire mechanism and made it more organized, integrated, and purely digital to eliminate the restrictions experienced by PIBOs earlier. 

The onus is on us.

To protect and improve the environment, more than a constitutional mandate is a commitment for a country wedded to the ideas of sustainability. Article 21 embraces the well-accepted right to live however, fulfilling EPR is a way to live in true means, in a plastic-free environment. 

While EPR has evolved as a preventive approach to tackle this problem and the rules framed under this policy are also fairly good, the onus is now on brand owners and waste recyclers to work in harmony towards the change.

“Plastic blood cells are increasing in our blood.”

In recent years, plastic-the wonder material recognized for its resilience, toughness and affordability, has become a major environmental threat. This ubiquitous environmental nature of plastic has contributed to its entry into the human body, posing a danger to human health.

With more than 400 million tons of plastic manufactured worldwide each year. 

Plastic is still an option for industries such as cosmetics, food packaging, utensils, etc. Most of the plastic waste ends up in dump yards and accumulates in water bodies as well. Several studies have shown its harmful effects on the marine environment and its presence in marine animal bodies, such as fish, molluscs, turtles, etc. Via the ingestion of fish, plastic enters the bodies of its producers, humans, closing the complete circle.

It’s a fundamental fact that the ocean has transformed into a plastic broth and plastic reaches the food chain through the fish we consume. 

While most individuals are concerned with largerplastic forms that often break down over time into small bits, there is a relatively new player: Micro-plastics.

A more serious health threat emerges from micro-plastics and nano-plastics created by physical, biological and chemical behavior of plastics. Micro and nano plastics can penetrate human bodies because of their invisible existence through the use of items containing nano-plastics, such as sugar, honey, rice, bread, pasta, milk, utensils, toothpaste, etc., other than by a consumption of seafood. 

Micro-plastics in tap and bottled water have also been detected in recent research. 

Nano-plastics are unknowingly inhaled by workers in the textile and PVC industries as well.

Though these micro plastics are everywhere, the impact of rising plastic cells on the human body still remains unknown.

Source-
https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/plastic-problem/plastic-pollution-facts/plastic-facts-figures/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals
https://qz.com/1644802/you-eat-5-grams-of-plastic-per-week/#:~:text=People%20across%20the%20world%20unwittingly,of%20plastic%20every%2012%20months