3.10 Extended Producer Responsibility

The Waste Act establishes Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a regulatory mechanism. EPR applies to instances in which the nature of the waste from products is of sufficient threat to require producers to take responsibility for aspects of a products management beyond the point of sale. EPR programmes can focus on both the beginning stages of a product’s lifecycle i.e. how to avoid the generation of waste, and on the end stages i.e. how to manage its use and disposal.

There are two main types of EPR initiatives - voluntary initiatives, which account for the majority of EPR schemes in South Africa to date, and mandatory initiatives, which have been initiated or implemented through government regulation. Voluntary initiatives are typically undertaken by industry, and are usually aimed at post consumer waste streams. An example of a voluntary EPR initiative which has worked well is that of the Recycling Oil Saves the Environment (ROSE) Foundation’s used lubricating oil recycling initiative. Whilst industry is encouraged to initiate voluntary schemes, it is recognized that in some instances these need to be augmented by government regulatory support. For example, norms and standards are being developed to ensure that the garage and motor vehicle maintenance industry participate in oil recycling activities that are aligned with the ROSE Foundation scheme.

The mandatory EPR initiatives fall into two categories. The first category consists of government regulatory support to existing voluntary initiatives, i.e. where industry has initiated a voluntary EPR scheme but mandatory formalization of certain elements is deemed necessary to effectively enforce it. Such regulation may be at government’s discretion, or on request by the industry. An example would be the tyre recycling scheme initiated by SATRPCo, in which the government has established regulations to ensure operational compliance. The second category of mandatory initiatives consists of those which are initiated by government through regulatory intervention in response to intractable problems. An example of such an initiative is the mandatory point-of-sale levy on plastic bags.

Invoking mandatory EPR as per Section 18 of the Waste Act is an interventionist measure which will be applied when industry self regulation through an industry waste management plan or other measures has failed. In the first instance, the role of regulation will be to strengthen and support voluntary EPR programmes which are initiated and run by industry.

Before an EPR programme can be declared, the Minister must first consult with the Minister of Trade and Industry and the producers who will be affected by the notice. The Minister must also take into account the Republic’s obligations in terms of any applicable international agreements and consider any relevant scientific information, where after the Minister may publish a notice in the gazette which gives effect to section 18 of the Waste Act.

When publishing this notice, the Minister must identify the product or class of products, the EPR measures which apply to that product(s), and the person who must implement those measures. The measures, contained in section18(2), are in summary:

  • Applying the waste hierarchy to the waste arising from the product(s).
  • Implementation of a waste minimization programme and its funding.
  • Product labelling in respect of waste.
  • Product design in respect of waste minimization and cleaner production.
  • Product lifecycle assessment.

The following diagram shows the steps to be followed in the process of declaring an EPR programme, including the considerations, consultations and possible mechanisms which apply to EPR:

Figure 12: Process for declaring an EPR programme
Figure 12: Process for declaring an EPR programme

Currently there are no guidelines available for the development of EPR programmes. DEA will develop a set of guidelines in consultation with industry to assist with the development of voluntary and mandatory EPR programmes.

Section 18 of the Waste Act requires the Minister to consult with the Minister of Trade and Industry regarding any EPR initiative, and to consult the Minister of Finance regarding any financial arrangements for an EPR programme. This is especially pertinent where the EPR programme is likely to require product design considerations, or impact significantly on the economy or specific economic groups. The interdepartmental committee that is established in terms of section 5.8 of this NWMS will also consider proposals for mandatory EPR regulations.

Once the above guidelines and structures are in place, a pilot EPR project will be undertaken to test the approaches and mechanisms, using non-complex industries, such as lead paint.

It is important to note that the state is not obliged to fund EPR initiatives, and that the primary obligation for funding rests with producers, retailers and consumers along the value chain. Financial arrangements will need to be tailored to individual EPR programmes, and the key challenge in terms of financial arrangements will be establishing who along the value chain bears what portion of the costs. A guideline on the appointment of costs for EPR programmes will assist with this process, and this will be developed by DEA in consultation with industry.


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