The packaging of a product is important to ensure the quality of the said product, especially because those products may have to travel far and long in order to land at the consumer’s hand. Even so, the products’ packaging would almost always end up in landfill and worsened the waste issues that the world is currently facing.
1. Facts regarding Packaging Waste
To illustrate, data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that between the year 1960 and 2015, the number of waste packaging surged from 27 million tons to 78 million tons, or around 185%. In addition, an article entitles “Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made” from Science Advances journal estimates that the plastic waste generation by industrial sector is dominated by packaging, which is 141 million tons. Packaging waste also becomes the most dominant due to its short life cycle; it becomes waste within only 6 months.
Packaging waste from chocolate and sweets collected by Daniel Webb (Ollie Harrop/Everyday Plastic/PA)
Based on a report by the World Economic Forum, 26% of plastic usage is allocated for packaging, and around 95% ($80-$120 billion per year) of the material values of plastic packaging are lost after a very short first use. In fact, more than 40 years since the global recycling symbol is launched, only 14% of plastic packaging managed to be collected for recycling.
Packaging waste makes up a large portion of the global waste problem. Hence, the responsibility in managing packaging waste should not only be imposed to the consumers as the one who use the products, but also the producers as the one who generate the packaged goods.
On the bright side, various efforts to handle the packaging waste that pollutes the ocean and overtook landfills have also been done. Either at the individual level ( like bringing our own containers when shopping) or at the macro level (opening bulk stores). One of the ways is through a program called Extended Producer Responsibility, shortened as EPR.
2. What is Extended Producer Responsibility / EPR ?
Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR is a mechanism or policy in which producers are asked to be responsible towards the products that they make or sell (along with the packaging) whenever that said products or materials turn into waste. In other words, producers should take part in bearing the costs of collecting, transporting, recycling, and disposing of the products/materials at the end of its life cycle.
If the EPR schemes is not yet specified by the government, the producers are free to choose and determine the EPR specification that they want to apply, for example by taking part in a collective waste collection. Currently, there are around 400 mandatory EPR schemes operating throughout the globe, some of them are in England, France, and Japan.
3. Benefits of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Producers
Besides displaying a strong commitment to safeguard the environment, EPR schemes can help companies or producers to minimize the environmental impacts that they produce. With EPR, producers will be also be encouraged to reduce the costs related to the products’ life cycle, long after it is released from the factory and used by consumers. Some of the ways is to design a more durable packaging or replace it with materials that can be reused or recycled such as cans and glasses.
Example of an ice cream packaging made from tin can in exchange of plastic. Source: www.foodbev.com
Moreover, EPR also enables producers to have a bigger role in recycling scheme. Therefore, producers will be able to secure an access to secondary materials for their own supply chain.
4. Environmental and Economic Benefits of EPR
In a broader sense, EPR program can give positive impacts for recycling efforts in general, especially in countries with low recycling rates. Programs such as giving back empty packaging or drop-off points will encourage people to segregate their waste and be more responsible towards the things that they bought and consume. Certainly this will reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill and help to realize the notion of Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL).
Example of a drop-off spots for products that are no longer used. Source: businessinsider.sg
EPR can also generate a positive economic impact, since it will help in reducing the costs of cleaning and maintenance of public spaces. To demonstrate, the implementation of EPR program towards frequently-littered goods such as cigarette butts and gums is estimated to be able to save the cleaning cost of around 300 million pound sterling that is paid annually by the British government.
5. Extended Producer Responsibility Programs in Indonesia
In Indonesia, there are several existing brands or companies that have implemented the EPR program towards the product that they sell or produce. Some of those brands are namely The Body Shop through a program called Bring Back Our Bottle, then the ride-hailing app Go-Jek who responsibly managed the discarded jacket and helm of their driver partners, as well as Djournal Coffee with their special containers for disposing plastic cups and straw.
In addition, Waste4Change as the provider of responsible waste management also has a service called Extended Producer Responsibility – EPR intended for brands or companies willing to start implementing waste segregation and responsible waste management of the products that they produce.
By utilizing the responsible waste management service from Waste4Change, your brand or companies have taken a part in realizing the circular economy as well as implementing our principle of Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL).
In need for a responsible and segregated waste collection? Feel free to reach us at Waste4Change!
World Economic Forum. 2016. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking The Future.