The Benefits of EPR for Businesses, Consumers, and the Environment
Humans have created waste since the dawn of civilisation. Since ancient Rome, our solution has been to send rubbish to landfills, keeping it neatly tucked away and out of sight. However, today’s growing population consumes products a lot faster than the old ones can disintegrate.
Like our technology and infrastructure, our waste has evolved. It’s made of durable, highly processed materials that can last a lot longer than things like untreated wood or plain cotton cloth. Recycling allows us to reclaim those materials and give them a second life.
While many households and private companies have been recycling for decades, it’s only made an appearance on government agendas fairly recently. Since the 1990s, dozens of countries have implemented EPR schemes to help them manage waste more responsibly.
What is EPR?
EPR stands for extended producer responsibility. It’s an environmental strategy that holds manufacturers responsible for the waste their products will eventually generate. That means businesses are required by law to consider what happens when people throw their products away. It usually includes making more eco-friendly disposal options available to consumers.
For example, under EPR regulations, an eCommerce business may have to provide convenient recycling points for their delivery boxes. National EPR regulations have been implemented in many countries worldwide, including South Africa.
EPR Regulations in South Africa
South African EPR laws are governed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). In 2021, the department gazetted a new set of EPR regulations as part of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA). These regulations apply to the following industries:
- Paper and Packaging
- electrical and electronic equipment (EEE)
- Portable batteries
Under the law, producers in the above-mentioned industries have to draw up and implement an EPR scheme that outlines how they are dealing with waste. That includes reporting on how many goods they put on the market every year versus how much waste they collect and recycle.
Environmental Benefits of EPR
The primary goal of EPR is to protect the environment. Implementing EPR at a national level increases accountability in the private sector, forcing companies to run better waste management programmes. EPR schemes help us reduce the amount of rubbish we send to landfills, which can have massive environmental benefits, such as:
- Reducing soil and groundwater pollution.
- Mitigating deforestation by reducing the amount of space dedicated to landfills.
- Lowering greenhouse gas emissions – landfills emit significant amounts of methane.
- Protecting plants and animals from harm due to improper waste management.
EPR can also increase recycling rates significantly, which is another big win for the environment. The more we recycle, the fewer raw materials we need to extract from the earth. Plus, using recycled materials to make new products is often less energy-intensive than using virgin ones.
For example, it takes over 95% less energy, to make aluminium cans from recycled ones than it does to make them from raw bauxite ore.
Benefits of EPR for Consumers
Using EPR to reduce pollution and litter helps us create cleaner, more enjoyable public spaces. It makes recycling easier and more convenient, empowering people to take control of their own waste management practices rather than relying on municipalities. Participating in EPR as a consumer is usually free, so you can do your part for the environment at no extra cost.
Another major benefit of EPR is that it helps create jobs. Increasing recycling rates means building new recycling plants, maintaining machines, managing staff, and transporting recyclables to and from facilities. It also creates new markets for recycled materials, setting up opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Finally, consumers can benefit from the price security EPR brings. When there’s not enough to go around, prices of raw materials can skyrocket, increasing the cost of groceries, fuel, and consumer goods. EPR schemes that promote using recycled materials over virgin ones help to prevent resource scarcity.
How EPR Benefits Businesses
Implementing an EPR scheme for your business can show you exactly how wasteful your daily operations are. It can help you find ways to generate less waste, which can bring cost-saving benefits. Lower volumes of waste mean reduced disposal fees, especially if you’re dealing with hazardous substances.
What’s more, joining a producer responsibility organisation or implementing an EPR scheme can give your business a good reputation. It shows your commitment to sustainability, which can help you attract new customers and retain your existing ones.
EPR typically encourages businesses to find new ways of making the same products with fewer raw materials, which may reduce their production costs. It can also drive creative product development that utilises recycled or reclaimed materials, giving you a competitive edge. Through this type of innovation, you can reduce your reliance on scarce resources and future-proof your business.
Enjoy the Benefits of EPR by Joining a PRO
Producer responsibility organisations (PRO) make EPR easier for businesses. They handle the reporting and ensure your recycling and cleaner production strategies comply with local laws. eWASA is a registered PRO for the lighting, electrical and electronic equipment, portable batteries, and, paper and packaging industries.
Become a member to enjoy the cost-saving and business development benefits of a compliant EPR scheme.