How to minimize waste from the beginning
As the amount of plastic waste continues to grow, governments around the world are struggling to keep up. Is there a way to take action and reduce it from the very start?
Manuel Asali, Vice President of NexantECA, says it can be done by extending producer responsibility.
Manuel, who works as a consultant to the petrochemical industry on the circular economy, notes that while consumer behavior and government support are important in reducing waste, true success begins in the production phase.
In new interviews from the LTAI series with Michael Londesborough, Manuel Asali outlines how petrochemical companies are changing their approach in an effort to reduce plastic waste and incorporate plastics into the circular economy.
What is EPR?
The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) isn’t exactly new, yet it is becoming increasingly emphasized and important. What does it actually mean?
As the name suggests, Extended Producer Responsibility is a policy which places more responsibility on producers. In practice, this concept should translate to producers creating higher quality goods which are easily reusable, reparable and/or recyclable, says Manuel Asali in the first video.
End of product life cycle
In a perfect EPR system producers should also take responsibility for products at the end of their life.
This can manifest in a few different ways.
Product repair schemes
When something breaks or wears out, it doesn’t necessarily have to become waste right away. Long-term product value can be found not only through quality and longevity, but also through repair.
That’s one reason why EPR emphasizes producing goods which can be easily repaired to extend product life cycles, as Manuel points out in the second video.
No one is better suited to repurposing a product other than its original creator. Repurposing products at the end of their lifecycle to either suit the same need in a different manner or fulfill an entirely new purpose is both a trendy and sustainable method of keeping materials in the loop of a circular economy and minimizing waste.
This is why certain producers are implementing buy-back programs, through which they are able to reclaim their products from consumers, revitalize them through upgrades and/or repairs and reintroduce them back into the loop as new products.
Of course, not all products lend themselves to repurposing or repair. Modern fast-paced society has also given rise to disposable products with a life cycle that’s over quicker than you can say “in the loop”.
Producers who manufacture this type of product are therefore looking at other creative ways to fulfill their responsibility.
“One way is by partnering up with Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs),” reveals Asali in his third interview with Michael.
These organizations should be non-profit entities, set up and collectively funded by relevant stakeholders to take care of an industry’s EPR commitments. For example, a chemical recycling organization funded by plastic industry stakeholders.
Some producers are also taking it upon themselves to develop new technologies to help them recycle products back down to their original building blocks, such as breaking down plastic through pyrolysis.
Product of the Future
EPR policies promise to light the way toward a cleaner, more sustainable and more circular future. By taking responsibility from the very beginning, producers are committing to creating higher quality products which can easily be repaired, repurposed or, at the very least, recycled, thus utilizing less virgin material and designing out unnecessary waste from the very start.