EXTENDED Producers Responsibility (EPR) is defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the waste stage of that product’s life-cycle. In practice, EPR involves producers taking responsibility for the management of products after becoming waste, including collection; pre-treatment, e.g. sorting, dismantling or de-pollution; (preparation for) reuse; recovery (including recycling and energy recovery) or final disposal.

In my trip to Japan in 2006 to observe their waste management practices, EPR was discussed and its actual implementation was shown to us. At that time, EPR was applied to some appliances like airconditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and television. We were taken to a facility where some of these appliances are dismantled and disposed of.

Under Japan’s EPR, both the manufacturer and consumer share the cost of recovering and recycling electronic products. Consumers and businesses that wish to dispose of the waste home appliances are responsible for paying for both the collection/transportation fee and the recycling fee, as well as for proper returning of them to the retailers from whom they were bought.

There is still no EPR law here in the Philippines. There is, however, a group that has taken the initiative to apply this principle to plastic waste. The non-profit organization is Plastic Credit Exchange, Inc. (PCX) founded and currently chaired by former actress Nanette Medved-Po. Last January 27, one of their staff, Mr. Richard de Guzman, was our guest speaker in the monthly meeting of the Environmental Practitioners’ Association. He introduced PCX to us and explained their activities.

The PCX implements a fully integrated plastic offset program. Strictly speaking, it is not an EPR because a company that joins the program does not necessarily recover its own products. Instead, it can offset the plastic it produces or uses by purchasing “credits” equivalent to the amount of plastic waste that it wants to clean up. One plastic credit corresponds to 1,000 kilograms or one metric ton of plastic waste. PCX then collects through its network of local partners who get the plastic waste from local neighborhoods, landfills and even oceans.

The PCX, through their accredited partners, then sends the plastic waste to the most environmentally preferred end destinations available. When feasible, it’s recycled into new products. If it's end-of-life plastic, it’s safely disposed through co-processing where it is used as a fuel. To date, their program has recovered more than 31,000 metric tons of plastic waste.

For a real EPR, there are pending bills in the House of Representatives that are still at the committee level. House Bill 8691 and 10498 seek to institutionalize EPR on plastic packaging waste. A similar bill was already passed on final reading in the Senate. If the lower house can fast-track the approval of their pending bills, there is a chance that there will be an EPR law before the end of this administration in June.