EPR is one term that is being thrown around a lot lately. So, what do consumers actually need to understand by EPR?
Industries and corporations are producing waste every day in amounts inconceivable to a regular consumer. With so much production of plastic waste, the management of this waste ultimately lies on the shoulders of communities, municipal corporations and state governments. So, it becomes mandatory for the government to implement laws and regulations that will put the responsibility on plastic waste producers.
EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) is a policy approach that puts the financial and physical liability on the producers, importers, brand owners and manufacturers to treat, dispose, recycle and reuse by the end of the product life, post-consumer plastic waste produced by them. While holding producers responsible for their plastic waste is a masterstroke in the policy approach towards building an efficient waste management system, we might not want to overlook the critical role of consumers in the EPR framework, but we need to take our responsibilities.
Responsibility of consumers in EPR:-
The consumer's choices and actions are very vital to the process of implementation of EPR in India. When consumers purchase products, they set a trend in the market. This trend will eventually decide if most products will end up in landfills/oceans or recycling centers. Hence, it becomes essential that consumers are conscious of their purchasing pattern and substantial carbon footprint. But what can we as consumers do to add value to the EPR system? Every purchase a consumer makes is a “moral act”. Whatever purchase we do, will ultimately end up back in the environment. Making a series of small ethical purchasing decisions and being mindful of that product’s durability may go a long way in the fight against plastic pollution.
The consumer has to be mindful of the ways they buy products. Buying a product that is recyclable and sustainable should take precedence. Before purchasing a product with packaging that may end up in the landfill, ask yourself if you really need it. Your decision to purchase sustainable products can actually drive businesses to rethink their linear business models and move towards a Circular Economy. A brand does a lot of hard work to carve out a strong image among its consumers. Moreover, an ideal company would be able to win the trust of consumers and will eventually survive longer.
Waste segregation at source:- EPR is only effective, when the waste is segregated and disposed properly at the source. Effective segregation of waste means more waste goes through correct waste streams and less waste ends up at landfills. Waste segregation should start at home. Your office/home may have separate bins for dry and wet waste. The mixed waste that is received currently only complicates the system and creates a burden of adding extra resources on municipalities for proper segregation.
Recycling and its proper disposal:- There has been a sudden increase in the public outcry against single-use plastic and for all the right reasons. Single use plastics are non-recyclable and difficult to dispose of. They end up in landfills and water streams causing adverse effects on territorial and aquatic life. Avoiding single-use plastic and knowing your waste is the key to proper disposal. Recyclable plastic usually comes with a little recycling symbol printed on the bottom. So, consumers can make an informed decision and decide which plastic can be disposed of to recyclers.
Challenges related to EPR:-
EPR may comprise the implementation of the take-back system, setting up of collection centers or both of these. Along with having agreed arrangements with authorized dismantlers or recyclers either individually or collectively through a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO), but we still face many difficulties, some of them are as follows:-
1] Difficulty in understanding guidelines:- In India, the first guidelines related to EPR were introduced in 2016, but still most of the companies were not able to fulfill their EPR targets due to lack of understanding, thus the complete responsibility of successful EPR had been shifted on the shoulders of industry.
2] Trouble in documentation submission:- As there is a need for documentation, as a proof, some difficulties occurred, while understanding the sequence of documentation for the submission of EPR certificate.
3] Trouble of tracking:- When companies tie-up with other agencies, it’s equally hard for them to track the EPR process, as the logistics and many other tasks are being handled by the producers.
4] Technological Challenges:- The waste management infrastructure is still under the development stage in India.
Leaving behind all the differences and difficulties, we need to be accountable to our environment so that our next generation should have an ideal lifestyle. EPR is a great step to make it happen. The most important thing is the role of consumers in EPR as they hold the power to “make or break a brand”.