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Transforming Waste: EcoEx Leading India’s EPR Revolution

EPR advocates for enhanced sustainable manufacturing practices and a significant decrease in environmental pollution and plastic waste

EcoEx, the first Indian digital marketplace, offers comprehensive plastic waste management services, waste commodity trading, and technology consulting. Specializing in the management of plastic and e-waste under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) services, we also trade in waste commodities. Furthermore, we provide technology consulting for establishing recycling units, waste-to-energy plants, and waste-to-oil plants. Our services ensure proper channelization and disposal with complete documentation, guaranteeing project execution at the ground level.

In an exclusive dialogue with The Interview World, Akshaya Rath, Co-founder and CEO of EcoEx, highlights the implementation of India’s first EPR program by his company. He emphasizes the program’s broader impact, envisions its long-term growth, and shares insights into its implementation in other countries. Here are the key insights from his interview.  

Q: Could you explain the concept of the first plastic EPR credit steered by EcoEx in India and elaborate on how it is facilitating and implementing this credit system within the plastic industry?

A: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a vital element of India’s Plastic Waste Management Rule. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitors this program. This regulation stipulates that manufacturers must collect and manage an equivalent quantity and quality of plastic used in their packaging. They must either recycle the plastic, if feasible, or incinerate it through designated, approved agencies. Moreover, they must document and submit all these actions through the CPCB’s online portal to ensure traceability and accountability.

This shift places the onus of waste management directly on manufacturers, including those in FMCG, F&B, pharmaceutical, and paint industries. These companies must now take responsibility for the pollution and litter their products generate. Producers themselves must now clear and manage the waste that previously burdened municipal bodies. This includes the plastic waste seen on roads and in landfills, which municipalities traditionally spent significant resources to clear.

Non-compliance with EPR regulations carries substantial financial penalties. Manufacturers failing to meet their EPR obligations will face a fine of Rs. 5,000 per tonne of unmanaged plastic waste. The CPCB has prescribed this penalty, enforced under the authority of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.

EPR’s scope extends beyond plastic waste management, encompassing other materials such as rubber, tires, batteries, and electronic waste (e-waste). This broader application aims to foster a more comprehensive approach to waste management, promoting environmental sustainability across various sectors. By holding producers accountable, EPR encourages more sustainable manufacturing practices and a reduction in environmental pollution.

Q: Can you elaborate on the broader impact of your program across the industry?

A: At EcoEx, we have developed a robust software platform designed to simplify and streamline the fulfillment of EPR liabilities for manufacturers. Our platform allows manufacturers to address their EPR obligations either independently, through their distribution networks, or by engaging consultants, advisors, or service providers. This flexibility ensures that businesses can choose the most efficient and effective method to comply with EPR regulations.

EcoEx has created a comprehensive platform that integrates 13 different stakeholders within the plastic waste ecosystem. Each stakeholder undergoes a rigorous due diligence process before registration, ensuring that only qualified and reliable entities are part of our network. Once registered, these stakeholders can facilitate the entire EPR process for enterprises. This process includes sourcing materials, arranging transportation, obtaining endorsements from local authorities such as municipalities, connecting with recyclers, and generating credit certificates on the CPCB portal. These certificates are then seamlessly transferred from the PWP wallet to the enterprise wallet, ensuring a smooth and efficient operation.

EcoEx stands out as a pioneer and the first trade portal for EPR and waste plastic commodity trade. Our innovative approach and comprehensive platform have positioned us as leaders in the industry. To date, we have facilitated over 500,000 tons of plastic credit transactions for major companies such as Coca-Cola, Dabur, Haldiram, Bikanervala, Adani, Marico, and Reliance. Our platform enables these enterprises to meet their EPR obligations efficiently and effectively, making the entire process hassle-free.

At EcoEx, we are committed to providing top-notch services that support businesses in fulfilling their EPR liabilities. Our platform not only simplifies compliance but also contributes to sustainable waste management practices. By leveraging our extensive network and advanced technology, EcoEx continues to lead the way in EPR solutions and waste plastic commodity trade, ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable future for all.

Q: With 5 lakh tons of plastic already exchanged, how do you envision the growth of this initiative over the next 5 to 10 years?

A: Founded five years ago, our company has been actively operational for the past three years, experiencing robust growth averaging 4 to 4.5 times annually. As we look forward to the current year, our projections indicate scaling up to processing one million tons of plastic, rubber, tires, and e-waste. However, navigating the regulatory landscape has been a journey, with government mandates introduced in 2016 gaining full enforcement momentum only in 2021.

The challenge lies in the disparity between current registrations and potential participants. Presently, despite India’s vast industrial landscape, only about 35,000 entities are registered on the Pollution Control Board’s dashboard. This number pales in comparison to the millions of industrial hubs that could benefit from compliance and participation. The future growth trajectory of our company hinges not just on our internal expansion but also on the increasing number of entities joining the regulatory fold.

Looking ahead, we anticipate exponential growth in the volume of plastic generated and recycled. Today, the CPCB portal records approximately 4 million tons of plastic waste annually. We project this figure could double, potentially reaching 9 to 10 million tons as environmental consciousness and regulatory compliance improve.

Furthermore, with an expected influx of 100,000 new registrations on the Pollution Control Board, companies like ours are poised for continued robust growth. We foresee sustaining annual growth rates of 4 to 5 times over the next five to six years, driven by both our operational capabilities and the expanding regulatory framework.

Q: Can you share insights on whether similar programs are being implemented in other countries?

A: EPR initiatives have been integral to environmental stewardship efforts globally, with their origins tracing back to Australia and the United Kingdom, where they were pioneered nearly a decade ago. However, the adoption of EPR has historically varied across countries. Over the past three to four years, particularly following the landmark COP26 and COP27 climate conferences, EPR has gained prominence as a critical component of sustainable waste management strategies worldwide.

In advanced economies, such as those in Europe and North America, established Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) manage the recycling and compliance obligations of brands that use plastics in their packaging. These PROs oversee the collection, recycling, and documentation of materials, ensuring that brands meet their EPR obligations effectively.

Conversely, in developing regions, the implementation of EPR frameworks is gradually gaining momentum. Recently, during my participation in the Southern Africa Development Council meeting in Zambia, supported initiatives funded by the World Bank highlighted significant strides towards integrating EPR into national waste management strategies. This underscores a growing recognition among emerging economies of the benefits of structured EPR frameworks in reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainable development.

Moreover, our engagement in tender processes across countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda underscores a burgeoning demand for expertise in guiding comprehensive EPR implementations. These opportunities extend beyond plastics to encompass a wide range of products, reflecting a global shift towards more holistic environmental governance and responsibility among manufacturers and policymakers alike.

In summary, while some countries are at varying stages of adopting EPR, recent global developments indicate a collective movement towards integrating robust EPR frameworks into national environmental policies, necessitating collaborative efforts to ensure effective implementation across diverse socio-economic contexts.

EcoEx - Facilitating Sustainability Through EPR By Reducing Plastic Waste
EcoEx – Facilitating Sustainability Through EPR By Reducing Plastic Waste
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