Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy principle that extends producers’ responsibility for their products and packaging across the entire life cycle of their product, with a particular focus on the end-of-life stage.
EPR plays a critical role in minimising waste, ensuring sustainable waste management and supporting South Africa’s transition to a circular economy.
Yes it is mandatory, as the final EPR Regulations have been published by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). The regulations became effective from 5 May 2021. According to the regulations:
- All producers had to register with the DFFE by 4 November 2021.
- Producers had to join/become a member of an approved EPR Scheme/Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) by 5 November 2021 and pay the relevant EPR fee. Alternatively, a producer can set up its own scheme if desired.
Glass is infinitely recyclable (with no loss of quality), and its recycling value chain is therefore already circular in design, which makes it almost unique among packaging materials.
A recycled glass container becomes a new glass cont
A recycled glass container becomes a new glass container with no alteration of the material’s molecular structure, and glass therefore has a powerful role to play in a truly circular economy.
It is a government initiative, gazetted in South African law.
Ardagh glass manufacturer/convertor is classified as a producer. Hence, it is obligatory for Ardagh Glass Packaging to adhere to the EPR regulations as they apply to all producers. The EPR fee is set by The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) EPR scheme and is a joint decision made by the board. It is in the best interest of glass manufacturers that the EPR fee is kept as low as possible or else it could lead to pack migration.
According to the regulations, producers are those entities, persons or categories of persons identified as being responsible for extended producer responsibility in terms of Section 18. Producers who place more than 10 tons of identified products onto the market on an annual basis are responsible for extended producer responsibility under the regulations, subject to the following criteria:
- a) If a brand owner is a South African company, the producer is the paper, packaging and single-use product manufacturer, convertor and/or the brand owner.
- b) If the brand owner is not a South African company, the producer is either:
- i. The licensed agent of the branded goods, or
- ii. Where no official agency agreement is in place, the importer of the branded goods as depicted on the Bill of Lading.
- c) Otherwise, the producer is the retailer.
Producers are also referred to as “obliged companies”.
Everyone classified as a producer as per definition above, whether a contract packer or manufacturer, needs to register with DFFE.
Only one party in the value chain will need to be part of an EPR scheme and pay the EPR fee which is up to the brand owner and contract packer to decide.
The brand owner will be responsible for declaring volumes placed on the market to TGRC.
In terms of EPR, the responsibility will lie with the producer over all stages in the value chain. With regard to exports, producers can claim back rebates on the EPR fees.
In light of this, ownership/responsibility does not fall under the ambit of the consumer, albeit the consumer will play a key role in terms of separation at source and/or dropping off the product at the glass recycling point.
Producer responsibility organisations
Producer responsibility organisations (PROs), also known as “EPR schemes”, are collective organisations that bear responsibility for the implementation and management of EPR responsibilities for their members, and for the collection of EPR fees.
All producers will need to either join a PRO or set up their own PRO/EPR scheme, which will require DFFE accreditation. Initially there will be a separate PRO for each of the material streams (glass, plastic, paper, etc.) in South Africa.
The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), of which Ardagh is a member, is a voluntary EPR scheme for glass packaging that was established by SA glass manufacturers and brand owners in 2005.
TGRC has established itself as a PRO in line with the new regulations which came into effect on 5 November 2021, and Ardagh Glass Packaging will continue to support circular-packaging initiatives as a member of the organisation.
The regulations require producers, via PROs, to (amongst others):
- Ensure the effective and efficient management of identified end-of-life products
- Encourage and enable the implementation of circular economy initiatives
- Set and keep track of collection and landfill-diversion targets
- Integrate informal and formal waste-value-chain activities
- Develop secondary markets for recycled content
- Support transformation objectives in the waste value chain
- Monitor and report on waste management data and material flows to the DFFE.
Glass industry targets
The EPR targets for the sector are set at 65% collection of glass used by 2026. This target will be reached through, among other initiatives, transport subsidies being granted for recyclers in provinces without processing facilities, and a R100 million investment by Ardagh Glass Packaging into expanded processing facilities in the Western Cape.
Specific recycling rates are not assigned to a single producer. The recycling rate will be based on tonnage recycled divided by the volume placed on market by the members of TGRC and this rate will be applicable to all members. Current collection and recycling targets are outlined in the table below.
|Product/class of products
|Product Design (recyclate content) [%]
|Collection Target [%]
|Recycling Target [%]
Members will receive consolidated information on the collection, reuse and recycling rates as well as the recycling content percentage. It is important to note that it will be mandatory for all members to submit their volumes placed on the market – preferably on a monthly basis – to their EPR Scheme/s.
According to TGRC, approximately 44% of glass used in South Africa is recycled.
There are numerous collection systems that are used for glass. With regard to non-returnable bottles, collections are from the following sources:
- Waste pickers who sell to buy-back centres
- Waste management companies
- Glass banks
- Skip bins
- Household collections
- Commercial collections, including HORECA
For returnable bottles there are efficient returnable systems in place. These bottles are returned by the public, buy-back centres and waste pickers either to the retailers, buy-back centres or the brand owners’ depots.
The TGRC levies have been set at R86.64 per tonne, which is less than 1% of the recommended sale price. It’s important to note that at least 75% of the glass industry has been paying a voluntary levy for the past 15 years, which will be superseded by the EPR levy, so it’s not expected to be onerous.
The levies have been agreed by the Minister.
The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) has been driving glass collection and recycling in South Africa since 2006, over which time it has more than doubled recycling rates – from 18% to 44%.
TGRC provides a clear plan for facilitating the collection of all one-way glass, and has 4 017 glass banks across South Africa. Today, all new glass produced in South African has at least 40% recycled content.
Over the past 15 years, TGRC has built a strong reputation and robust relationships with national and local government, the private sector and other PROs.
TGRC strives to develop more entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors by creating income-generating opportunities and skills transfer. It is a Level 1 B-BBEE Qualifying Small Enterprise, and 80% of its support already goes to black-owned businesses.
TGRC is therefore well qualified in terms of the requirements of EPR Schemes. The benefits to the glass industry of having access to an EPR Scheme with excellent existing infrastructure and networks will be significant.