Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Plastic Waste Collection


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

Mains level : Need for plastic waste management

The Environment Ministry has issued draft rules that mandate producers of plastic packaging material to collect all of their produce by 2024 and ensure that a minimum percentage of it be recycled as well as used in subsequent supply.

What is EPR?

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) means the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product (plastic packaging) until the end of its life.
  • India had first introduced EPR in 2011 under the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 and E-Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2011.

What are the new EPR rules for Plastic Waste?

(A) Plastic packaging

  • The new EPR guidelines covers three categories of plastic packaging including:
  1. Rigid plastic
  2. Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carry bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches
  3. Multi-layered plastic packaging which has at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.
  • It has also specified a system whereby makers and users of plastic packaging can collect certificates — called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates — and trade in them.

(B) Ineligible plastics for EPR

  • Only a fraction of plastic that cannot be recycled will be eligible to be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, waste to oil and cement kilns.
  • Only methods prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board will be permitted for their disposal.

Targets for recycling

  • In 2024, a minimum 50% of their rigid plastic (category 1) will have to be recycled as will 30% of their category 2 and 3 plastic.
  • Every year will see progressively higher targets and after 2026-27, 80% of their category 1 and 60% of the other two categories will need to be recycled.
  • If entities cannot fulfil their obligations, they will on a “case by case basis” be permitted to buy certificates making up for their shortfall.

Effects on non-compliance

  • Non-compliance, however, will not invite a traditional fine.
  • Instead, an “environmental compensation” will be levied, though the rules do not specify how much this compensation will be.

Challenges in mandatory EPR

There are several challenges faced by both producers and bulk consumers that hinder proactive participation.

  • Consumer awareness: Waste segregation has been the greatest challenge in India owing to lack of consumer awareness.
  • Lack of compliance: The plastic producers do not wish to engage in the process holistically and take the effort to build awareness.
  • Large scale involvement: The EPR doesn’t take into account the formalization of informal waste pickers, aggregators and dismantlers.
  • Lack of recycle infrastructure: These challenges range from lack of handling capacity to illegitimate facilities in the forms of multiple accounting of waste, selling to aggregators and leakages.

Way forward

  • Tracking mechanism: What India needs is to develop tracking mechanisms and provide oversight of waste compliance, in order to ensure that the mechanism of waste disposal is streamlined.
  • Strict enforcement: While enforcement strictness is of paramount importance, it is also vital to build an incentive structure around this to ensure better complicity by the producers.
  • Innovation: The time is ripe for innovators to come up with an alternative for plastics and the strong will of the Government to rid the toxic waste in a sustainable and safe manner.

Try answering this PYQ:

Q.In India, ‘extended producer responsibility’ was introduced as an important feature in which of the following?

(a) The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998

(b) The Recycled Plastic (Manufacturing and Usage) Rules, 1999

(c) The e-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

(d) The Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011


Post your answers here.
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Also read:

[Burning Issue] Ban on Single Use Plastics


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C The e-waste management and handling rules 2011

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