The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (“MoEFCC”) inserted Schedule II, Guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility for Plastic Packaging (“EPR Guidelines”) as an Amendment to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (“PWM Rules”). This is in furtherance to the responsibility of Producers, Importers and Brand Owners (“PIBO’s”) demarcated under Rule 9 (1) of the PWM Rules. Extended Producer Responsibility is a regulatory approach as per which PIBO’s are required to ensure responsible collection channelisation, treatment and/or disposal of plastic waste.
- Coverage and Extent of Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”) – The following plastics are categorised under the EPR Guidelines:
- Category 1: Rigid plastic packaging will be included under this category.
- Category 2: 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 sachet or pouches will be included under this category.
- Category 3: Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic) will be included under this category.
- Category 4: Plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics fall under this category.
- The Guidelines covers (i) reuse, (ii) recycling, (iii) use of recycled plastic content, (iv) end of life disposal with respect to plastic packaging. In order to reduce usage of fresh plastic material for packaging, importance has been placed on the reuse of rigid plastic packaging.
- In case, the obligated entity utilizes plastic packaging which is 100% biodegradable in the ambient environment leaving no traces of micro plastics or chemical residue or any other traces having adverse environmental and health impacts as certified by regulatory entities Central Pollution Control Board, Bureau of Indian Standards, Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering & Technology, the Extended Producer Responsibility target will not be applicable for such material.
- Implementation of EPR Targets and Issuance of Environmental Compensation – The EPR Guidelines have implemented category wise EPR Targets for PIBO’s within percentages of 25%, 70% and 100%. Environmental Compensation shall be levied based on the polluter pays principle, with respect to nonfulfilment of EPR by PIBO’s, for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environment pollution.
- EPR Certificates: Surplus EPR certificates may be generated to carry forward and offset against previous year EPR targets and obligations. PIBO’s can also meet their EPR obligations under a category by purchasing surplus EPR certificates from other PIBO’s of the same category.
The intent behind the introduction of Schedule II is definitely a step in the right direction as an initiative to strengthen the circular economy with greater accountability and incentivisation at stake for PIBO’s. The materialisation of the polluter pay’s principle and the instatement of EC would likely push businesses to be mindful of achieving their EPR Targets with aid from EPR certificates which may be sold or purchased to offset and meet respective business and environmental goals.
It is, however, imperative to note that there does exist the possibility of a regulatory overlap whereby the same entity may play more than one role as a Producer, Importer and Brand Owner. This multiplicity may not only weigh heavily on a business entity from a compliance and regulatory standpoint but may also leave room for the surplus EPR Certificates generated to be relayed amongst entities in a manner that may impact the efficaciousness of these Guidelines.
The EPR Guidelines came into force with immediate effect vide notification dated 16th February 2022.