India’s EPR Journey in Plastic Waste Management: Obligation or Opportunity?

Over the last 100 years, the world has produced more than 8.8 billion tonnes of plastic, 460M (or 5%) just in the year 2019. To tackle the problem of plastic waste, India has an EPR system in place. Under EPR, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has mandated recyclers to report their plastic packaging recycling data and generate EPR credits for the same. EPR stands for Extended Producer Responsibility.

It is a policy approach under the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016, which makes producers responsible for the end-of-life disposal of their products. This means that manufacturers, brand owners, and importers are legally obligated to manage the collection and disposal of their products in an environmentally sound manner. The goal of EPR is to encourage producers to design products that are more environmentally friendly and to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products, including their disposal. 

There are 4 categories of plastic waste as defined by the EPR program in India:
  • Category 1: Rigid package plastic
  • Category 2: Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic)
  • Category 3: Multilayered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic)
  • Category 4: Plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics

If someone identifies themselves  as PIBO (PIBO stands for producer, importer, and brandowners) and have operations in India that uses plastic packaging as part of their operation, irrespective of turnover or scale of operations they fall under the obligation of EPR. In the initial years, PIBOs obligation targets are low, which is to focus on strengthening the higher participation of stakeholders. 

Going forward the targets are extended, to strengthen higher reuse and recycling of plastics to lead to circularity in the system. The set year-wise targets are shown in the table below.

Table 1: EPR Targets

In the case of compostable plastic packaging, the target is set at 100% from 2023-24.

Figure 1: EPR Target slit based on categories (Source: Calculus IQ)

In 2022, the EPR target for plastic recycling in India was set at 3 million tons. Among the categories, Category 2 constituted the largest share at 55% (1.6 million tons), followed by Category 1 at 33% (1 million tons), Category 3 at 12% (0.3 million tons), and Category 4 at a mere 10,833 tons. 

India has a total of 2,215 Plastic Waste Processors (PWPs). Gujarat leads the plastic recycling and EPR industry in the country with the highest number of registered PWPs (621) and 24 in the process of registration. Following closely is Delhi with 404 registered PWPs. Uttar Pradesh is also showing growth in the plastic processing sector, with 28 facilities in the process of obtaining registration approval.

In Figure 2 below, in 2022, approximately 3.7 million EPR certificates were produced collectively by all the registered PWPs. Each certificate signifies the recycling of 1 metric ton of plastic. Among these, Category 1 accounted for the largest portion, reaching 1.3 million certificates, surpassing the EPR target of 1 million. Category 2, however, generated 0.9 million EPR certificates, falling short of the 2022 target of 1.6 million.

Figure 2: 2022 EPR Availability from PWP (Source: Calculus IQ)

In conclusion, India’s concerted efforts to combat the escalating crisis of plastic waste have been marked by the implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system. The goal of EPR is not only to ensure environmentally sound management but also to encourage the production of eco-friendly goods, emphasizing the entire lifecycle of products.

Complementing this regulatory framework, the integration of Plastic Credits offers an innovative and market-driven approach. This mechanism incentivizes organizations to go beyond compliance, actively investing in initiatives that actively reduce or remove plastic waste from the environment.

Read more on plastics credits here.

If you are interested in learning more about the voluntary carbon market, we invite you to interact with Calculus IQ. This tool can help you explore different aspects of the market, including project types, retirement volumes, and more.

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