Global plastic profiles: What is the status of Extended Producer Responsibility globally?

There is no consensus on a harmonised global EPR; EU is the only region to propose an EPR to incentivise “plastic reduction and reuse”, in addition to high quality recycling

By Siddharth Ghanshyam Singh
Published: Saturday 20 April 2024
The Yamuna river besides the Taj Mahal polluted with plastic trash. IStock photo for representation

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach integral to ongoing efforts to combat plastic pollution, aiming to shift responsibility of waste management from consumers and municipalities back to producers of goods, including plastics. EPR programmes are designed to promote sustainable product and packaging management throughout the life cycle of products, emphasising producer accountability for waste generated by their products. This framework operates on the principle of “polluter pays”, where producers assume financial and/or physical responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of their products.

Key components of EPR for plastics include obligations for producers to finance waste management costs, incentivise product design that facilitates recycling and repair, and ensure effective waste collection and recycling systems. Producers are encouraged to support the development of recycling infrastructure and technologies to enhance plastic recycling. EPR implementation varies globally, with some regions establishing comprehensive frameworks while others are in the process of developing or expanding EPR policies specific to plastic products and packaging. By integrating EPR into plastic pollution negotiations, stakeholders aim to promote sustainable practices, incentivise circular economy principles, and reduce the environmental footprint of plastic production and consumption. Developing robust EPR policies tailored to plastic waste management is crucial for fostering producer responsibility and achieving meaningful progress in addressing plastic pollution on a global scale.

There is no consensus on a harmonised global EPR. EU is the only region to propose an EPR to incentivise “plastic reduction and reuse”, in addition to high quality recycling.

Africa has requested for intersessional work on this issue and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) have suggested that the governing body would adopt the modalities in the subsequent sessions.

Japan and Norway have advocated for a sector-specific EPR, and Brazil has not agreed to the modlalities in the annexxures that will decide the sector’s targets and approaches.

The United States and India have demanded a national approach. The US, though, has disagreed to place the accountability on producers. Both India and the US have removed strong language like “across life cycles and international supply chains”. China has recommended that this provision be merged with the one on waste management.

Some countries like the US, Iran and Russia have also advocated for non-fiscal EPR, thus weakening the whole idea of producer responsibility where the polluter walks free from the burden of basic activities like collection and recycling.

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