How to achieve pollution-free environment II

A polluted coastline in Guyana


A focus on Extended Producer Responsibility Policy

In recent past, quite a baggage of blames and faults have been placed in the corridors of manufacturers, as being the biggest source of pollution in the world, Africa and indeed Nigeria not an exception. Especially the way plastics is used in packaging most Fast-Moving consumer goods and the geometric progressions of the units of manufactured products as a direct proportion to the resulting plastic waste generated. The government has been challenged to put in place regulations and framework for a circular economy, the manufacturers were also admonished to take back their waste using buyback models like reverse vending solutions or likewise adopt local recycling companies who are making quite a commendable progress at protecting the environment from the menace of pollution of all kind associated with indiscriminate disposal of waste especially recyclable waste. Just recently, it was discovered that an agency of government statutorily responsible for the protection and development of the environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of the country’s natural resources in general and environmental technology including coordination and liaison with relevant stakeholders within and outside country on matters of enforcement of environmental standards, regulations, rules, laws, policies and guidelines has taken a bold step by putting together a laudable framework called the Extended Producers responsibility policy.

Yes, producers need extend their responsibility beyond manufacturing products, marketing and revenue generation, they should likewise be responsible for the huge chunk of waste that is generated from their business process, after all it isn’t acceptable that manufacturers destroy the environment all because they are desirous of buoyant revenue stream. The large population of consumers is very much aware of the great role environmental protection plays in this matter of sustainable development, thanks to the awareness campaigns and some recent climate change threats which have really emphasized the need for climate action that borders on staring down pollution in every possible way.

Sometime around the close of the year 2015, it was widely reported in the media that The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) will begin the enforcement of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy in the first quarter of 2016, this brought a great ray of hope to residents who understand what great gains are latently endowed in implementing the policy, environmentalist and conservationists were all excited at the news. Just about then the Director-General of NESREA, Dr. Lawrence Anukam, during a workshop held in Lagos for players in the food and beverage sector reiterated the need for producers and all entities involved in the product chain, to reduce the cradle-to-cradle impacts of a product and its packaging. He further asserted that EPR has become a global best practice operated successfully in several developed and developing countries to deal with the environmental, social and economic challenges of packaging waste. Two years after no substantial enforcement and impact have been made in the implementation of this laudable policy which plays a vital role in the global realization of a circular economy. What has restrained the EPR to just another document rotting away on the shelves of policymakers? Why is the government reluctant or perhaps slow in implementing a policy that will in a great deal attempt to solve Nigeria’s waste crises and at the same time create jobs for the teeming youth population? Who is to blame?

There arises the need to demystify the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy; The Extended producer responsibility is simply making manufacturers responsible for the products they produce or sell, and anything associated with the products like the materials used in packaging, even after they are sold to consumers, used and ultimately becomes waste. The manufacturer takes a very substantial position of responsibility for all that every unit of their products becomes after leaving the walls of their production plants, the cost of gathering and disposing of the waste generated by them after the lifecycle of their products comes to a halt. Manufacturers are mandated to be answerable for their products beyond their production areas and distribution channels, even beyond the period of warranty.

With the ever-increasing amount of waste generation, governments across the world have explored innovative action plans and policies and resolved delegating the responsibility for the post-consumer stage of some category of products on manufacturers could be a viable option. In the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy framework where manufacturers are delegated with a significant amount of responsibility for the disposal of products post-consumption. The practical angle to this is that it provides incentives to mitigate and intercept waste at the very source, encourage the innovative design of products with a consciousness of environmental friendliness and vehemently backs the realization of proper waste management and material recovery and resources conservation targets of governments around the globe.

Implementing the Extended producer responsibility is of great benefit to the environment, the population and the economy in that it helps manufacturers reduce to a marginal rate the environmental effects of their products waste by motivating them to research ways to minimize the associated cost of managing their product waste, this makes producers structure the design of their products in a way that increases durability and eases recycling, the producers are key actors in product buy backs and packaging material recycling, and as such provides them with materials that can be re-used in their production and supply lines.

On a broad perspective, the Extended Producers Responsibility help mitigate indiscriminate waste disposal as applying buyback schemes to regular items that constitute litter like plastic bottles and plastic bags could save our country millions of naira in costs of associated with cleanup of illegal dumpsite across the city center and metropolis. Seldom, the costs of Extended Producers Responsibility are basically inherent in the purchase price of products, only those consumers who buy the product resultantly pay for its disposal. The Extended Producers Responsibility is not an alien policy as its in been operation all across the globe especially in developed climes, plastic packaging, batteries, electronics and even automobiles are all within the EPR through various frameworks and schemes. Some countries even included furniture and tires. For example, in Japan the EPR policy mandates producers to use a sizeable percentage of recycled materials in the production of new items.

According to an article published by Carola Harnish in the Environment Science and Technology journal mid-2011, In Germany, since the adoption of EPR, between 1991 and 1998, the per capita consumption of packaging was reduced from 94.7 kg to 82 kg, resulting in a reduction of 13.4%. Furthermore, due to Germany’s influence in EPR, the European Commission developed one waste directive for all of the member states. One major goal was to have all member states recycle 25% of all packaging material and have accomplished the goal.

European nations are indeed making substantial progress in waste management as a result of implementing the EPR policy, although not completely mandatory manufacturers in these climes have developed a sense of belonging to the global action aimed at combating climate change. Just recently, early October six major giant beverage companies announced and pledged that all their plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 A huge leap from the past. More companies need to join this resolve after all only a society free of pollution assures of a better trade. This will be a great milestone in cutting down plastic pollution. Our environment and oceans will be litter-free, jobs will likewise be created and a huge step will be taken in the direction of a circular economy.

In the same vein, another very big player in the bottled beverage sector announced on its Twitter page that it has resolved to combat climate change, and it will, therefore, be switching to 100 per cent climate-friendly coolants in the U.S. by 2020 — using less energy and decreasing GHG emissions. As laudable as this announcement is the question on the mind of concerned individuals especially in Africa is why not set a global target. It is regrettable though how multinational manufacturers come into developing nations economic space and do not replicate the level of responsibility displayed in their country of origin in their newly found economic thresh grounds. Developing Nations need to stand firm on matters of Environmental protection, manufacturers should not make money at the expense of the environment. Human life and wellbeing is pivotal on the wholesomeness of the environment. Indeed, governments of developing nations set strategies at wooing multinationals and high yielding investments into their economic space, but it should not be at a damning cost to the environment. Getting a rise in the rating of ease of doing business index shouldn’t be at the expense of protecting our environment.

The effects of climate change and its threats are more grievous on developing nations as there are no tested organized structures and frameworks like that of their counterparts in developed nations to mitigate them. The problems confronting Africa is worrisome enough, adding the concerns of global warming and other environmental crises will be a nut too tough to crack in the face of dwindling resources and economic quagmire, we must therefore defend and protect our environment judiciously, multinational manufacturers should as a matter of obligation replicate environmentally-friendly actions existing in their country of origins in developing nations too. Indigenous manufacturers should likewise know we have no ‘Planet B’ and that no one is immune to the disastrous consequences of Climate Change, they should set environmental protection benchmarks in production as a worthy example to other players in the industrial space, as an African proverb says; “the name the owner of the house calls his utensil is the same his visitor calls it”.

The improved awareness and consciousness of the African young population about Climate Change has led to great strides and resilience shown by the blooming social entrepreneurs in the waste management sector, waste recycling enterprises have sprung up in every part of the Nigeria and indeed Africa, most of which have attracted international accolades and support even from non-Africans, the agencies of government statutorily empowered to oversee matters of the environment and manufacturers should harness this area of strength and innovation by ensuring the EPR hits the ground running, and likewise ensure materials used in the packaging of their products are recyclable. For example, manufacturers of plastic bottled beverages should adopt and support vibrant recycling enterprises in each region their products are distributed, major importers of car tyres should adopt and support upcycling firms that convert waste tyres to beautiful furniture, this way more jobs will be created for the teeming young African population and more players will be attracted to the waste management value chain. The benefits of the EPR are countless, the time for its implementation is now, every stakeholder must support climate action and take a stand for the environment.

Like in previous submissions, environmental protection is not the responsibility of the government alone, we all are stakeholders in issues of the environment, we all have roles to play, government and citizens alike.

Amusa is an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, and Zero-Waste Advocate. He is the Chief Executive Officer, Vicfold Recyclers- A Recycling Firm based in Ilorin Kwara State Nigeria, which Promotes Incentive Motivated Recycling. (www.vicfoldrecyclers.com). He can be reached on +2348094865401 or founders@vicfoldrecyclers.com

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