Newly published EPR regulation

South Africa’s waste generation continues to increase; significant volumes of waste are still being diverted to landfill, a dead-end disposal of waste rather than the desired approach of a circular economy . If we are to protect our environment’s natural resources and develop green economies, producers of products will be required to take responsibility for their products throughout the product life cycle, from raw material extraction through product design and use, and ultimately, recovery and recycling or re-use.

The Regulations Regarding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) (R.1184) were published on 5 November 2020, under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (NEMWA) (Act 59 of 2008). The Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme for Paper, Packaging and Some Single-Use Products (R.1187) was also published. The primary intention of the regulation and the scheme used together is to extend the financial and physical responsibility for a product to the ‘producer’ of that product, which importantly includes the post-consumer stage (waste disposal).

The purpose of the EPR Regulations is: “to provide the framework for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of extended producer responsibility schemes by producers, to ensure the effective and efficient management of the identified end-of-life products and to encourage and enable the implementation of the circular economy initiatives.”

This 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”. It is important for all members throughout the product life cycle to identify their roles and ascertain whether they fall within the definition of ‘producers’, as this may affect their responsibilities and what compliance is required.

The EPR Regulation (R.1184) requires that existing producers must register with The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) within six months of the publishing of the regulation. All new producers must register within three months of the publishing of the regulation by completing the prescribed form, obtainable from the Department. The regulations go on to stipulate that the Department must consider and issue a number for each producer within 30 days of receipt of the form.

Regulation 1184 details specific minimum requirements for EPR schemes. The Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme for Paper, Packaging and Some Single-Use Products (R.1187) will have a particular impact on the ‘producer’ in the context of the food industry. This scheme includes targets for each identified product waste stream; these are defined for each class of products. Classes include paper, plastic, biodegradable and compostable, glass, metal, and single-use packaging.

The EPR Regulation (R.1184) goes on to stipulate that failure to comply with various provisions is an offence, which may on conviction lead to an “appropriate fine”, imprisonment for a period of 15 years, or both.

It is advisable to ascertain whether you or your company could be defined as a ‘producer’; and if so, to prioritise understanding the intention of the regulation and what the obligatory requirements are for the responsible stakeholders.

No doubt additional resources will be required to abide by these new regulations. Focusing on the common goal of supporting the environment, by recognising that EPR is a component that underpins the overall strategic approach of waste minimisation and a circular economy in South Africa, may well assist the transitional process.

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