Draft regulations on Extended Producer Responsibility – UPSC GS3

Context: Environment Ministry published draft regulations on Extended Producer Responsibility.
What is Extended Producer Responsibility?
  • EPR requires the manufacturer of a product, or the party that introduces the product into the community, to take responsibility for its life cycle.
  • For Example : It mandates the FMCG company to account for the costs of collection and recycling of the packet.
Issues with draft regulations on Extended Producer Responsibility:
  • Disregards the contribution made by Waste pickers: 
    • The guidelines fails to mention waste pickers or outlining mechanisms for their incorporation under EPR, despite their significance.
    • It directs producers to set up a private, parallel plastic waste collection and recycling chain. This amounts to dispossessing waste pickers of their means of livelihood.
  • Focuses only on Plastic: 
    • The EPR guidelines are limited to plastic packaging.
    • Multi-layered and multi-material that includes plastic items like sanitary pads, chappals, etc, pose a huge waste management challenge today, but have been left out of the scope of EPR.
  • Issues in processing of waste: 
    • Despite the harmful impacts of end-of-life processing technologies, the draft regulations legitimise them to justify the continued production of multi-layered plastics.
    • For instance, a number of gasification, pyrolysis and other chemical recycling projects have figured in accidents such as fires, explosions and financial losses.
Way Forward:
  • An effective EPR framework should address the issue of plastics and plastic waste management in tandem with the existing machinery. It should aim to minimise duplication and lead to a positive environmental impact, with monitoring mechanisms including penalties for non-compliance.
  • Scope of plastics covered by the guidelines could be altered to exclude those plastics which are already efficiently recycled and to include other plastic and multi-material items.
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