Taking practical or financial responsibility for the disposal of one’s products is no longer a nice-to-have or a tick-box exercise. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) by producers and importers in the electrical, lighting, and paper and packaging sectors has now been made mandatory by the South African government.
On 5 May 2021, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) gazetted the amended EPR regulations under Section 18 of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act.
These regulations aim to provide the framework for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EPR schemes, to ensure the effective lifecycle management of the identified products and to enable the implementation of circular economy initiatives.
The regulations also make the producer or group of producers responsible for the establishment of an EPR scheme, the development and implementation of an EPR plan and compliance against annual recovery and recycling targets.
According to Francois Marais, manager of Fibre Circle, the producer responsibility organisation (PRO) for the paper and paper packaging sector, EPR will enable collaborative investment in collection and recovery infrastructure, in terms of more convenient recycling facilities for consumers and improved recovery at pre-consumer or post-industrial phases.
Fibre Circle is calling on eligible and obliged paper producers, which could encompass manufacturers and importers of paper and paper packaging as well as brand owners and retailers, to join its ranks. Any South African company or brand that makes or imports paper or paper packaging (whether primary or secondary) for distribution in South Africa is required belong to an approved EPR scheme and to pay an EPR fee per sales tonne of product.
In collaboration with its members, Fibre Circle will establish and manage the EPR schemes for the identified paper products of newspapers; magazines; office, graphic, mixed and other papers; corrugated cases and kraft paper; liquid board packaging; labels and paper sacks.
“It makes commercial sense to belong to an existing scheme that has been established by a registered PRO such as Fibre Circle,” notes Marais. “Tackling EPR alone could become onerous and costly.”
“By joining Fibre Circle and doing so before 5 November, your paper and paper packaging interests can be collectively represented and you will be compliant with EPR regulations,” says Marais.
He adds that Fibre Circle will identify shared problems and opportunities for collaboration among member companies, municipalities, other PROs and the informal sector, all in support of a thriving circular economy.