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Extended Producer Responsibility regulations: How do they impact you?

The newly gazetted Extended Producer Responsibility regulations have come into effect, and consequently, producers have until 5 November to comply. However, confusion reigns regarding the specific responsibilities of both the public and private sectors; and exactly how EPR will impact businesses.

Background: Extended Producer Responsibility in South Africa

Unsustainable production and over-consumption of finite resources is the leading cause of the climate crisis. Global warming is accelerating, with Southern Africa warming at almost twice the rate globally. Attempts to curb the increase in emissions and manage the end-of-life of materials need to focus on an international cooperative transition to a circular economy that eliminates waste and keeps resources in circulation.

Governments across the globe have introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to place the responsibility for the end-of-life management of materials on producers. Most recently, Maine in the United States has made headlines with its EPR policy. Locally, mandatory EPR recently came into effect in South Africa on 5 May 2021 under Section 18 of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA). The regulations apply to the paper and paper packaging, electronic and electric equipment and lighting sectors.

Under the regulations, Obliged Producers have until 5 November 2021 to register with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and to ensure that all identified products are covered by an EPR Scheme. Producer Responsibility Organisations are in the process of supporting members in being compliant, as well as developing EPR schemes for the identified products.

Business and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

But where does this leave your business? What are the next steps for you to make sure that you are ready on 5 November?

TOMA-Now have broken the process down into three core activities:

Know your responsibilities

  • Do the regulations apply to you? Are you an obliged producer?
    • The Regulation refers to the term ‘producer’, meaning “any person or category of persons or a brand owner who is engaged in the commercial manufacture, conversion refurbishment or import of new and/or used products as identified by the minister”.
  • Where do you lie on the product/packaging value chain?
    • It is important for all stakeholders throughout the product life cycle to identify their roles and establish whether they fall within the definition of ‘producers’, as this may affect their responsibilities and what compliance is required.

Get your house in order

  • First, focus on your internal operations and get a clear picture of what materials and volumes you are dealing with.
  • Decide on an approach for compliance. Will you be joining a PRO, and if so, what is the right one for your needs?
  • Engage with the right stakeholders to either formulate your own plan or have a say in the industry-led EPR plans.

Prioritise transparency and communication

  • Reporting on progress against the targets is a core component of EPR regulation. You can use this to your advantage and communicate your impact to your key stakeholders.
  • Visual storytelling can be a way to quickly and clearly communicate targets achieved.

Other complexities

We need to take the local context into account and acknowledge the challenges that waste management faces.

Local government (municipalities) lack the financial security and sustainability to implement alternative waste management approaches that focus on developing a secondary resource economy. The EPR fees will play a crucial role in financing materials recovery and beneficiation, as well as the critical capacity building and education components.

However, access to the materials for recovery remains hampered by the fact that separation at source in South Africa is voluntary. There is minimal incentive beyond the environmental and ethical considerations to drive end-consumers to participate in separation-at-source programmes. Without the participation of households and businesses, one cannot access the quality feedstock necessary for a viable secondary resource economy. We require source-separated, uncontaminated materials to ensure optimal recycling rates.

What next?

Should you need our help with registration, identifying the right approach to EPR Scheme engagement or support for strategic shifts to meet the targets, our Team is ready to help.

Learn more about how TOMA-Now can help you navigate the EPR process. We unlock value in waste.

About the Author

Dr Jaisheila Rajput

Dr Jaisheila Rajput obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town. From the start of her career, she has leveraged her research and innovation capabilities to develop practical, industry-relevant solutions. She has a career spanning nearly two decades in the automotive, chemicals and construction industries. Her rich background includes technical, management systems, strategy and sustainability. She has worked in several countries including South Africa, Germany and Hong Kong. Jaisheila brings a fresh global perspective to the development of solutions for companies doing business in Africa.

Jaisheila founded TOMA-Now | Tomorrow Matters Now in 2013 to focus on the development of the Green Economy in Africa. Their client base is spread across Africa, Asia and Europe, focusing on global collaboration and input towards a sustainable future for all. She is a Green Economy leader passionate about empowering others to develop economic solutions for sustainability and inspiring change in how we do business. She is a fervent believer in building practical and comprehensive solutions that unlock green business value with long term benefits and impacts.

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