Regulation mandates companies to be waste cautious

26th February 2021

With extended producer responsibility (EPR) now mandatory in South Africa, managing the end-of-life of a product has become a social, environmental and economic requirement. 

Owing to this, companies will need to take responsibility for their waste so that less goes to landfill, warns paper and paper packaging sector producer responsibility organisation Fibre Circle GM Francois Marais.

Fibre Circle advises companies and brand owners against tackling such waste alone. 

The non-profit organisation represents the collective interests of the paper and paper packaging sector, helping members to identify shared constraints and common opportunities, as opposed to individual companies developing a separate, and perhaps more costly EPR scheme.

“For many years, the recovery and recycling of paper products has been voluntary and largely industry-driven, through strategic recovery initiatives, school recycling programmes and awareness campaigns,” says Marais.

EPR will now become compulsory for all producers and importers of products identified in the recently gazetted and amended regulations under Section 18 of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act. 

Any South African company or brand that makes or imports paper, packaging and some single-use products for distribution is required to pay an EPR fee per sales tonne of the product. 

“EPR will therefore change how producers, brand owners, retailers and importers design, make, sell and keep their products in the recycling loop as far as practically possible,” he says, adding that producers of goods or packaging will have to take back their material after use and do something with it, whether it is cost-effective or not. 

The paper products included in the new regulations are newspapers, magazines, office and graphic papers, corrugated/kraft, liquid board packaging, label backing paper, and paper sacks. Each of these categories has been set yearly collection and recycling targets for the next five years.

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 each product’s targets for recovery and recycling. 

“EPR will see an investment in collection infrastructure, not only providing consumers with more convenient recycling facilities, but also a concerted recovery effort at the pre-consumer or post-industrial phase. Intensive consumer awareness campaigns will also help to drive behaviour change.” 

Since early 2019, the majority of paper and paper packaging manufacturers have paid voluntary EPR fees to Fibre Circle. “We would like to make this circle bigger to reduce the burden on the environment, take responsibility for our products and support a thriving circular economy,” concludes Marais.