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Beyond the Bin: Unpacking the Benefits of EPR for Glass Packaging Sustainability

Did You Know? Recycling one ton of glass saves over 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions!

 

As discussed previously, in the realm of sustainable packaging, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has emerged as a pivotal concept, urging manufacturers to shoulder greater responsibility for the environmental impact of their products. Let's explore how EPR guidelines and regulations are shaping the landscape of glass packaging sustainability.

 

EPR for Glass Packaging in India:

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations for glass packaging in India are governed by the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022. EPR systems ensure that all types of glass containers are effectively collected for recycling in a bottle-to-bottle loop system. 

Glass has long been a leader in the circular economy. The recycling target includes:

●      25% recycling of glass waste by 2023

●      50% recycling of glass waste by 2025

●      70% recycling of glass waste by 2027

Stakeholder

Percentage Targets for Different Stakeholders

Objective for Glass Packaging

Datelines

Producers

 90% collection

Encouraging eco-friendly alternatives

2025

Local Authorities

100% collection

Minimizing single-use plastic

2023

Recyclers

50% recycling efficiency

Promoting circular economy

2023

Consumers

100% segregation

Fostering responsible consumption and disposal

2024

 

The following targets have been set so far by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change:

Year

Target

(% of Extended Producer Responsibility)

2024-25

30-50

2025-26

40-60

2026-27

50-70

2027-28 onwards

60-80

 

The targets for other items such as battery waste, waste tyres, etc. can be read here.


Global Glass Recycling Rates:

Glass recycling plays a crucial role in sustainable waste management efforts worldwide. Here's a glimpse into the global glass recycling rates:

  1. Europe: Leading the charge in glass recycling, Europe boasts an impressive glass collection rate of 80.1%. This high rate is a testament to the region's robust recycling infrastructure and effective waste management policies.

  2. North America: Following closely behind, North America maintains a glass collection rate of 32%. While lower than Europe, this rate still reflects significant efforts in glass recycling across the continent.

  3. Asia: In Asia, glass recycling rates vary widely among countries. The Asia-Pacific glass recycled market is set to project a CAGR of 4.64% in terms of revenue and 3.74% in terms of volume for forecast period of 2024-2030. While some nations have made considerable progress in glass recycling, others are still in the nascent stages of developing comprehensive recycling systems.

  4. Oceania: Countries in Oceania have also made strides in glass recycling, with collection rates steadily increasing in recent years. The glass collection rate is similar to that of North America, close to 30%. Government initiatives and public awareness campaigns have contributed to this positive trend.

  5. Africa: Glass recycling rates in Africa are generally lower compared to other regions. It has the lowest glass collection rate of 4%. However, there is growing recognition of the importance of sustainable waste management practices, leading to initiatives aimed at improving recycling infrastructure.


Why Glass?

Glass, known for its inert nature and ability to be endlessly recycled without losing quality, has become a preferred material for packaging. EPR for glass packaging aims to capitalize on these characteristics, pushing for a closed-loop system that reduces the need for new raw materials, conserving energy and mitigating environmental harm.

 

Case Study - Recykal:

Extended Producer Responsibility is a holistic approach that places the onus on manufacturers to manage the entire lifecycle of their products, from production to disposal. In the context of glass packaging, this means taking active measures to minimize environmental impact, especially in terms of recycling and waste management.

Recykal is a technology-driven cloud-based waste management company operating in Hyderabad. It helps to bring clarity, monitoring, formalization, coordination and accountability into waste management in India and helps individual players to fulfill their EPR targets. Their strategy proved to be successful as they increased their volumes of waste collection from 20/30 kg per day to about 10,000 to 15,000 kg per day.

Source: Bhadra and Mishra (2021)


Regulatory Landscape:

Different regions have varying EPR frameworks for glass packaging. European countries, for instance, have stringent regulations that mandate glass producers to manage the end-of-life of their products. The emphasis is on recycling targets, with penalties for non-compliance. In the United States, state-level EPR initiatives are gaining momentum, with some states implementing deposit systems to encourage recycling.

 

How does this work?

  1. Financial Responsibility: Manufacturers contribute financially to recycling programs and waste management facilities. This funding supports the infrastructure needed for effective collection, sorting, treatment, and recycling of packaging materials.

  2. Operational Responsibility: Manufacturers may also take on operational responsibilities, such as establishing collection infrastructure like kerbside collection programs or implementing bottle bank schemes. These initiatives aim to facilitate the convenient disposal and collection of packaging materials.

  3. Waste Management: Within the scope of EPR, manufacturers finance sorting facilities and treatment processes essential for recycling packaging materials. This ensures that collected materials are sorted efficiently and undergo appropriate treatment to prepare them for recycling or reuse.

  4. Packaging Design: EPR encourages manufacturers to design packaging with recyclability in mind. This includes minimizing packaging waste and environmental impact through thoughtful design choices. By designing packaging that is easier to recycle, manufacturers contribute to the overall effectiveness of recycling initiatives.

  5. Whole-Cycle Approach: Effective EPR systems adopt a whole-cycle approach to waste management. This means implementing measures not only to manage waste at the end of its life but also to discourage the introduction of difficult-to-recycle packaging into the market. By addressing packaging design and waste management comprehensively, EPR systems aim to reduce the environmental impact of packaging throughout its lifecycle.

 

Deposit Return Schemes (DRS):

One of the options gaining traction among countries looking to increase packaging collections rates is to introduce Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) for one-way glass packaging. Deposit Return Schemes are a system whereby consumers pay a deposit for a beverage container at the point of purchase, which can then be redeemed when the empty container is returned to the retailer or collection point.


 Challenges and Opportunities:

Despite its benefits, glass recycling faces challenges, such as contamination issues and transportation costs. EPR guidelines push manufacturers to invest in innovative solutions, including advanced sorting technologies and localized recycling facilities. This presents an opportunity for the industry to foster innovation and contribute to a more sustainable future.

 

EPR guidelines also emphasize the importance of educating consumers about the recyclability of glass and the proper disposal methods. Transparent labeling and communication strategies play a crucial role in encouraging responsible consumer behavior, aligning with the overarching goal of reducing the environmental footprint.

 

Global Collaborations:

The interconnectedness of the global supply chain requires collaboration across borders. EPR guidelines for glass packaging stimulate international dialogue and partnerships. Shared best practices, research, and technological advancements contribute to a collective effort in achieving sustainable packaging solutions on a global scale.

 

In the evolving landscape of sustainable packaging, EPR guidelines and regulations for glass packaging serve as a catalyst for positive change. As the industry navigates the challenges and embraces the opportunities presented by these frameworks, it paves the way for a future where glass packaging stands as a beacon of environmental responsibility, embodying the principles of a circular economy.

 

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