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By Jessie Taylor 

 

As South Africa’s population and economy grow, so too does its waste generation. But failing to correctly manage this waste will not only increase pollution and use of landfill sites, but it can also rob the country of job opportunities.

In a bid to reduce the waste disposal at landfill sites, and encourage a circular economy, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has published the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Regulations. This legislation will see industries and product manufacturers taking an active role in the disposal and recycling of their products, after consumer use.

 

Relooking at waste disposal

This is the first comprehensive set of regulations seeking to regulate EPR measures in South Africa. Internationally, EPR Regulations has been used to hold the brand owners of certain products on the market accountable for the waste generated by their products.

The brand owner is often regulated because they make decisions on the design of the product and are best able to include more recyclable materials into their product specifications.

South Africa’s legislation, however, takes a broader approach by including manufacturers, converters, refurbishes, importers and brand-owners of products in the EPR Regulations. It also includes packaging components and not just final products.

Initially set to come into effect last year, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy extended the implementation of the EPR Regulations to 5 May 2021. Under this regulation, all existing producers, and producer responsibility organisations, must register with the Department before 5 November 2021.

The regulations apply to the electrical and electronic equipment, lighting and paper, packaging and some single-use product sectors. They outline a new approach to waste management in South Africa and will contribute significantly to the diversion of waste from landfills.

“This will increase the recycling, reduction, reuse and recovery rate, thus achieving one of the aims of the National Waste Management Strategy published earlier last year.   It is also an opportunity for the government to work closely with industries that produce varying amounts of waste to enhance the country’s capacity to recycle, thus expanding the Circular Economy,” said Creecy.

“As a means through which the manufacturers and importers of products are required to bear a significant degree of responsibility for the impact their products have on the environment, Extended Producer Responsibility ensures that those products are either recycled or up-cycled, and that waste products diverted to landfill is kept at a minimum.”

Producers of the products listed must develop and submit their EPR Regulations schemes or establish a Producer Responsibility Organisation that will prepare and submit an Extended PRO Scheme.

 

Creating opportunity through circular economy

The EPR Regulations will ensure producers take responsibility for the life cycle of their products, including waste disposal after consumption. This regulation is a transformative move, because it places the cost of waste management with industry, as opposed to the government and public. The regulations also encourage a circular economy, by creating economic opportunities in the recycling and reuse of products.

The circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. A key element of the Green Stimulus recovery plan is the circular economy.

The Green Stimulus recovery plan forms part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP). The ERRP would target a 3% average annual economic growth over the next decade.

The Green Stimulus Recovery Programme will contribute to equitable economic growth, provide employment to marginalised communities and grow economic sectors reliant on the environment without destroying it.

As part of the plan, the government has zoned in on managing pollution, decreasing plastic waste and enhancing the recycling of plastics. Regulations that promote recycling not only reduce waste but add to the circular economy and provide opportunities for job creation.

The new requirements aim to ensure that household, industrial and commercial waste is diverted from landfills and instead used to bolster the product development and waste management sectors.

As South Africa’s waste generation increases, significant volumes of waste will be diverted to landfills. The ERP Regulations are a step towards building a circular economy, in which natural resources are protected, green economies can thrive, and producers and manufactures can play an active part in reducing their environmental impact.

As manufacturers become more financially and operationally responsible for the life cycle of their products, the circular economy will be increased resulting in increased job opportunities and economic spin-offs.

 

 

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