Responsibility of producers in circular economy


EARTH Overshoot Day (EOD) 2021, the date this year when humans would have used up the amount of resources that can be renewed by planet Earth in a year, came and went on July 29. It was nearly a month earlier than the date in 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic had pushed EOD last year to Aug 2020, but it only took less than a year for consumption and emissions to resume as countries went back to business as usual.

EOD signals that we are overdrawing on Earth’s resources and leaving less for future generations. We see the consequence of these excesses today in climate change, pollution, dying coral reefs and dwindling fisheries, just to name a few.

To prevent catastrophes, we must push EOD backwards to Dec 31. To do this, we need to rethink our production and consumption practices.

Today, one of the most pressing issues plaguing our environment is plastic usage and pollution, particularly single-use plastics.

A 2019 study showed that Malaysia was responsible for 7.5% of the plastics flowing into the ocean, putting us ahead of even China, a country of 1.4 billion people with a GDP almost 40 times the size of ours.

The global use of plastics has outstripped our ability to manage the waste stream. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is adding to this conundrum as more and more people are opting for food take-outs and deliveries, causing a huge spike in packaging waste primarily consisting of plastics.

For decades, waste management has been the responsibility of the public and government. A revision is crucial to include plastics producers themselves. This is done through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which holds producers accountable for end-of-life of their products.

The scheme requires governments to enact the EPR guidelines and regulations on producers right from the concept and design of their products to manufacturing and distribution and disposal phases, including waste treatment and recycling.

The EPR scheme provides the mechanism to enable producers and consumers to transform waste back into products in a responsible manner.

To slow down the advancement of Earth Overshoot Day, we must collectively address the plastics problem in a sustainable way.

And the time to act is now.

WWF-MALAYSIA

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