HOLDING MANUFACTURERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THEIR PRODUCTS

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Ezekiel Sekele

In the field of waste management, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has continued to be a driving force behind manufacturers adopting product designs that reduce negative environmental impact, as well as making it easier to reuse or recycle their products.

The recent new legislation in Zambia on EPR has continued to help organisations to demonstrate their deeper commitment to reducing the environmental impact of their products. And with the most governments around the world prioritising policies that are aimed at safeguarding the environment, many manufacturers across various sectors of the economy are still struggling to find ways they can minimise the negative impact of their products on the environment.

However, we first need to understand what EPR means. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) explains it well. According to the organisation, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a concept where manufacturers and importers of products should bear a significant responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle, including upstream impacts inherent in the selection of materials for the products and downstream impacts from the use and disposal of the products.

And the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has identified the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme as a critical policy tool with a track record in holding manufacturers accountable for the end-of-life impacts of their plastic products and packaging, and encouraging holistic eco-design in the business sector.

For this reason Zambian Breweries launched the Manja Pamodzi project, a community-based recycling initiative helping to clean up packaging waste in Lusaka, improving sanitation and hygiene.

The project is a community-driven environmental health education and clean-up project with an entrepreneurial twist. The project is achieving this by supporting a network of collectors and aggregators. Manja Pamodzi is driven by Zambian Breweries and in partnership with the Lusaka City Council and others.

Manja Pamodzi has recruited more than 800 collectors, 11 aggregators, 12 processing plants and with just under 10,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. To date, the initiative has managed to collect over 12,000 tonnes of recyclable waste material from various communities in Lusaka.

Recently, Zambian Breweries also partnered with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to step up the promotion of the Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations Statutory Instrument No. 65 of 2018 by launching a media awareness campaign to highlight existing waste minimisation and recycling practices.

The partnership is also thighlighting economic opportunities associated with sustainable waste management practices.

Zambian Breweries has realised that there are numerous opportunities in waste management and recycling and manufacturers, distributors, importers, traders and retailers have a key role to play in promoting waste management.

Sustainable waste management has also become even more important in the light of COVID-19 which is significantly contributing to increased waste generation at the household level. The outbreak of the virus globally and locally has seen stringent health measures being taken to curb its spread.

In line with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on personal health hygiene, social distancing and handling of cash in the communities; Manja Pamodzi has distributed additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its collectors, aggregators and team, put-up posters with COVID-19 information on health prevention across all its aggregator sites in Lusaka, and established its digital automated payment system (BanQu) as the main method of payment to collectors and aggregators.

The time has come for other industry stakeholders to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and promote EPR awareness programmes and create jobs and support sustainable environmental management through recycling.

So, under the EPR a producer’s responsibility covers the entire lifecycle of their product from production, sale and right through to the point that the consumer has stopped using the product. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the producer to ensure that the end product of what they produce does not pose any threat to the environment.

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