South Africa’s EPR: a positive step towards a circular economy

South Africa has introduced new legislation that defines “extended producer responsibility”, or EPR, for paper and packaging.

EPR is a policy principle that extends producers’ responsibility for their products and packaging across the entire lifecycle of their product, with a particular focus on the end-of-life stage. EPR plays a critical role in minimising the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill, ensuring sustainable waste management and supporting South Africa’s transition to a circular economy. “Producers”, according to the legislation, are defined as stakeholders who hold responsibility over the design and production of packaging products (i.e. the packaging manufacturer), and who place those products on the market (i.e. brand owners), as well as importers and retailers of the products. The EPR legislation requires all producers to form, or join, a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO). Initially there will be a separate PRO for each of the material streams (glass, plastic, cardboard, etc.) in South Africa. The various PROs will be responsible for reaching certain material-specific targets in terms of waste management, and producers will contribute EPR fees to the various PROs to assist them to reach these targets.

Although newly enshrined in law, the ideas behind the EPR are not new to Consol. Since 2005, Consol has been a member of The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), which has been a voluntary EPR scheme for glass packaging over the past 16 years.

TGRC is currently establishing itself as a PRO in line with the new regulations, which will come into effect from 5 November 2021, and Consol will continue to support circular-packaging initiatives as a member of the new organisation. According to TGRC, approximately 44% of glass used in South Africa is recycled. The EPR targets for the sector are set at 65% collection of glass used by 2026. This target will be reached through, among other initiatives, transport subsidies being granted for recyclers in provinces without processing facilities, and a R100 million investment by Consol into expanded processing facilities in the Western Cape. Glass is infinitely recyclable, which makes it almost unique among packaging materials, and its recycling value chain is already circular in design. A recycled glass container becomes a new glass container, with no alteration of the material’s molecular structure. Consol therefore believes that glass will be a key pillar of any truly circular economy, and is proud to support South Africa’s EPR legislation and other initiatives that advance this goal. For more information and frequently asked questions relating to the EPR, click here.

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