|Competitive EPR system
|Scope of material included
|E-Waste and Plastic Packaging
|Costs for producers
|Differing depending on state, chosen model and PRO
Three different EPR models suggested:
Model 3: Plastic credits
The creation of waste management legislation for plastics and e-waste began in 2011 and was transformed into general waste management legislation in 2016. After this legislation was amended again in 2018 to include guidance and registration options for PROs, the creation of a single framework for EPRs followed in 2020 (GIZ, 2021). The most recent amendment for the guidelines on EPR in India were published in February 2022, defining even more specifically the responsibilities of the obliged industries, the included material scope and future EPR, recovery and recycling targets (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2022). With the introduction of EPR, producers are given responsibility for implementing waste collection systems, either individually through their own distribution channels or collectively through the representative local body in their territory (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2020). In contrast to European countries, the proposed EPR concept, although mandatory, offers a great deal of leeway. This may be due to the different waste management structures that prevail from state to state in India.
- Model 1 – Fee-based system:
A central EPR fund will be established, depending on contributions from manufacturers, importers and brand owners, and supervised by the central government. The amount of financial contributions will depend on the amount of plastic put on the market by the participants (Hossain et al., 2022). The resources from this central fund are made available to three entities, namely the ULB, the recycler/recycler and the implementation of information, education and communication (IEC) activities. (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2020).
- Model 2 – PRO:
Producers funded, industry-self-managed PROs will be set up and made responsible for their member-producers´ waste management obligations (Pani & Pathak, 2021). Although there is an option to partner with a PRO, large generators can also establish their own waste management projects under the EPR guidelines. Producers can therefore decide for themselves whether they want to participate in the establishment of a PRO or support a PRO by paying fees, or whether they want to take the management of the plastic they produce into their own hands (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2020). There will be different PRO groups based on their level of experience. For example, Group 1 should already have ten years of experience in waste management, while Group 2 might only have five years of experience. This allows smaller startups to get involved in waste management and reach far-flung places where large, experienced PROs would not venture. PROs must calculate the fee per kg to be paid by producers, considering the full range of costs to be paid for the disposal of plastics. In a non-monopolistic system, costs will vary from PRO to PRO and a competitive market will emerge. For this reason, there is no accurate estimate of the cost yet, as it varies across the states and across the different waste management infrastructures in the country.
- Model 3 – Plastic credits:
The third model is very similar to the second model but instead of each individual producer meeting their target, tradeable credits are issued and firms are allowed to trade them among themselves. This mechanism ensures that an equivalent quantity of plastic to what a manufacturer produces is recovered and recycled. This could be done by buying plastic credits from or trading them with waste processors at market-determined variable prices (Pani & Pathak, 2021). With this method an industry wide recycling target would be met, but there is risk of freeriding.
In summary the guiding principles of the EPR framework are the following (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2020):
- Producers/importers/brand owners are by their own or through a PRO required to ensure an equivalent amount of collected and processed plastic.
- Inclusion of informal waste pickers should help improving their working condition and traceability of data.
- The obliged industries can obtain certificates from accredited processors in exchange of an evidence of recycling or recovery which will then act as EPR compliance.
- The obliged industries can decide themselves if they want to engage individually (through buy-back or deposit refund schemes) or collectively (through a PRO) with the ULB, processors and the informal sector.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (2022) defined four categories to be understood by plastic packaging. These categories are listed in the table below. Future recycling targets have been established by the Ministry for these four different categories (see chapter 6.3.4). In the legislation it is stated that only those plastics, which cannot be recycled should be sent for end of life disposal such as waste to energy, road construction, waste to oil or cement kilns.
|Type of plastic
|Rigid plastic packaging
|Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer, plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches.
|Multilayered plastic packaging
|Plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics.
Table 1. Plastic packaging categories under an EPR system. Source: (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2022)
These categories will also be used to set mandatory proportions of plastic content in products manufactured in the future. For example, the annual share of recycled rigid plastics is to increase from 30% in 2025/26 to 60% in 2028/29. Since rigid plastics are easier to recycle, their recyclable share in the future is significantly higher than the recyclable share of multilayered packaging, where the share is expected to increase to only 10-20% by 2029/29 (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2022).
As obliged entities the (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2022) has identified four different types:
- Producers of plastic packaging;
- Importers of all imported plastic packaging or plastic packaging of imported goods;
- Brand owners including online platforms and marketplaces and supermarkets and retail chains. Additionally, all micro and small enterprises as per criteria of Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises will be held accountable;
- Plastic waste processors.
The first three groups (producers, importers and brand owners) have to register themselves through an online centralized portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in order to get a certificate. Annual reports of plastic packaging waste collected and processed under the EPR must be submitted to the CPCB or the respective State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or Pollution Control Committee (PCC), as appropriate, by June 30 of the next fiscal year by these three stakeholders. Furthermore, they have to provide an action plan which contains category-specific information on their EPR targets and details of the registered recyclers from whom they obtained recycled plastics for new products. In addition, a cross-checking of data is necessary, which will take place through the provision of data by brand owners as well as producers and importers. The brand owners provide details about the plastic packaging provided by the producers/importers, while the latter also provide the quantity of plastic packaging material they have provided to the brand owners. An online platform will help to verify and control this data recording.
Also, the waste processors must register with the corresponding SPCB or PCC on the centralized portal and after the end of every financial year by 30th of April provide information about the different waste categories they processed. The total quantity of processed plastic waste is allocated to producers, importers and brand owners on a percentage basis and published on the CPCB’s centralized portal. Certificates are issued for all waste processing strategies that do not relate to plastic in road construction.
In India, evidence of improvement in recycling rates associated with the implementation of an EPR system is difficult to assess because the system is so new and data collection/tracking has not really been implemented. However, there is some information on the success of the informal sector in terms of recycling. In India, recycling rates achieved by the informal sector range from 50 to 70% (Nandy et al., 2015).
Despite the fact that no improvement rates in recovery and recycling rates have yet been observed, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (2022) has set requirements for future recycling rates.
Figure 1. Future recovery rate targets India. Source: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (2022)
The EPR system in India follows a decentralized approach, where the producer has to register with the corresponding SPCB. Only if the producer is active in more than one state, he has to register centrally with the CPCB. The figures show that this process is improving year by year and the reporting is becoming more reliable: In 2011-12, the CPCB still stated that only 20 of 35 SPCBs and PCCs submitted data per reporting requirement. In 2019-20, however, all 35 states submitted their reports (Central Pollution Control Board Delhi, 2020).
Figure 2. Registration rates with the CPCB 2011-2019
Case Study Recykal
Recykal is a technology-driven cloud-based waste management company operating in Hyderabad. It is helps to bring clarity, monitoring, formalization, coordination and accountability into waste management in India and helps individual players to fulfill their EPR targets. The firm was launched in 2017 and operates in Pune, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore with more than 500 businesses. It´s main focus is to connect multiple stakeholders including waste generators, namely businesses and households, waste aggregators and recyclers. Their strategy proofed to be successful as thee increased their volumes of waste collection from 20/30 kg per day to about 10,000 to 15,000 kg per day.
Recykal developed different, mostly technology-based, products to support reaching the obliged industry’s EPR targets in accordance with rules put forth by the government of India. Apart from cloud-based technologies aiming to connect different actors in the waste management field, Recykal also offers awareness programs and workshops for firms, educational institutes and schools, as well as sustainability consulting for corporates to help them reduce their environmental impact and fulfill the government´s requests and legislations.
Figure 3. Recykal Products. Source: Bhadra and Mishra (2021)
Recykal and EPR
Apart from the products mentioned above, Recykal also developed an EPR platform for managing EPR operations by two different ways:
- Recykal helps to set up take-back programs or DRS when firms already have their individual EPR programs in place. It´s duty then is just to improve the management of these operations through a cloud-based, more efficient system which aims to connect customers, waste aggregators and recyclers.
- Recykal helps to set up EPR programs by obtaining the recycling targets from clients and managing respective amounts of waste until recycling and certification in the name of the firm. By this way, EPR obligations are going to be outsourced to Recykal and the firm just pays a fee for the service. Following this strategy, Recykal can make use of economies of scale and it gets much cheaper than every firm having to individually fulfill their targets. Also, Recykal would take charge of reporting the amounts of EPR targets already met to the CPCB through EPR reports, disposal certificates and real time tracking of waste.