Do you know what is the connection between EPR plastic & environment? Every year, more and more waste is ending up in the environment and keeping a harmful effect on mother earth. Data says that in our country, India, a swelling number of 15,342 tonnes of plastic is generated every day. Have you ever thought that what detrimental the condition of the environment would be if the plastic generation is not controlled properly? Well, a sustainable solution to this sensitive issue is “Extended Producer Responsibility” or EPR. Let’s try to explore the topic.
- What is Plastic?
Plastic is basically virgin granules that are made from the cracking of petroleum. Plastic was introduced to the market by FMGC companies while they took the help of plastic regarding the packaging of consumer goods like packaged food, shampoo, oil, body lotion, etc.
Due to the cost-effective and convenient nature of plastic, usage & consumption of plastic increased every year, since its invention in the 18th century. As per data, it is more than 380 million tonnes of plastic that the world is generating now per year.
- What is Plastic Waste?
On completion of the utility of the products, the consumers through away these plastic items which ultimately creates waste. Plastic Waste is a major concern as plastic remains forever in the environment and it affects the biodiversity of the earth. Plastic waste creates plastic pollution that causes harm to wildlife, birds, humankind as well as the entire environment. Plastic waste has spread in such a way that we can find it from Antarctica to Mount Everest everywhere. According to data from the Indian Govt., plastic waste generation has increased from 2015-16 to 2019-20 by 21.8 % which is almost double. In the year 2019-20, around 34 lacs of plastic waste were generated which is quite an alarming fact.
- How Plastic Can Cause Harm to the Environment?
Plastic stays in the ecosystem for a long time, creating a hazard to wildlife and spreading pollutants. Plastic plays an important role in global warming as well.
Almost all plastics are manufactured from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels like gas, oil and even coal. So, indirectly by using plastic, we are making way for polluting fuels.
Also, when plastic is burned in incinerators, it releases greenhouse gases and hazardous air pollution.
The amount of plastic we through away every day, only a small percentage of that is recycled or burnt in waste-to-energy plants. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, releasing toxic chemicals into the soil and water.
When plastics are broken down, it signifies that one large piece of plastic is broken down into several smaller bits. Smaller animals can eat these smaller particles of plastic which are still indigestible, resulting in rising rates of species extinctions.
- What is EPR?
Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR is a sustainable waste management concept that was established by Thomas Lindhqvist in 1990. EPR compelled the world to think that the financial liability of a municipal corporation regarding waste recycling can be shifted to the producers and the brand owners whose responsibility toward the society is something beyond only production.
In the year 1992, the concept of EPR was spread globally at the Rio de Janerio Earth Summit and most of the European Nations started to implement this noble concept in their countries.
In India, this concept was first implemented in 1986 through the Environmental Protection Act describing the Polluter Pays principle. Meanwhile, many rules regarding plastic and E-waste management came and went until and unless EPR was implemented in 2016 by government enforcement.
Initially, it was comprised of only e-waste management but later plastic waste management also went under its jurisdiction.
- What is the Significance of EPR on the Environment?
EPR plastic management concept is an environmental risk management tool. It encourages manufacturers to adopt comprehensive life-cycle costs, accounting for all costs associated with their products. The Action Plan aims to reduce the toxicity and environmental risks posed by products and product waste, as well as to improve the overall life-cycle performance of the product, including lowering greenhouse gas emissions. So, it can be safely said that the EPR scheme is a revolutionary system to streamline the process of environmental pollution due to harmful plastic where an EPR company like a brand, packaging company, importer, or goods producer stays in the pivotal position to keep the packaging plastic material out of the environment, focusing to maintain the circular economy.
- Conclusion: –
Data says that plastic production globally has increased doubled reaching the number 460 million tons from the year 2000 to 2019. For India, the data is around 34 lakh tons. Unfortunately, only less than 10% of the lot is recycled globally. Nearly two-thirds of this plastic waste comes from plastics that have lifetimes of under five years, 40% coming from packaging, 12% from consumer products and 11% from apparel and textiles. Implementation of the EPR plastic management system faces challenges in terms of lack of understanding of consumers on the nature of waste, poor infrastructure, gaps among recyclers, aggregators, and waste generators, etc. Successful implementation of this effective legal tool is associated with awareness of every individual and corporates and government, working together on plastic waste management, synchronization of all these can lead to a plastic-free healthy environment.