AMCHAM Food & Agri Alert: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

AMCHAM Food & Agri Alert: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

VOL. 3 of August 28, 2023

It cannot be denied that when there is consumption, there must be waste. The linear economy, sometimes referred to as the “take-make-waste” economy, is a system where resources are extracted to make products that eventually end up as waste and are thrown away. It is a polluting system that degrades natural systems and is the driver of global challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss.

A transition to a circular economy is crucial to allow us to thrive in the future. The main principle of a circular economy is to reduce the use of new raw materials while maintaining the value of the product. Ideally, a component or material should be able to be used as long as possible with minimal negative impact on the life of the product and the environment.

Therefore, manufacturers play a role at every stage of a product’s lifecycle. The concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) was conceived to help drive wider expansion of the circular economy.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines EPR as an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s lifecycle.

Thailand has taken notice of this concept, as seen from the updated Thai plastic packaging regulations below.

  1. Notification of the Ministry of Public Health (No. 435) B.E. 2565 (2022) Re: Specification of Qualities or Standards of Food Packaging Made from Plastic

In 2005, the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted a prohibition against using plastic containers made from recycled plastic to contain food (except if containing fruit with a peel, whereby the peel is not consumed), as stipulated in the Notification of the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) (No. 295) B.E. 2548 (2005) Re: Qualities or Standards of Containers made from Plastic.

However, on June 17, 2022, the Thai FDA implemented MOPH Notification (No. 435) B.E. 2565 (2022) Re: Specification of Qualities or Standards of Food Packaging Made from Plastic to repeal and replace MOPH Notification No. 295. Recycled plastic is currently allowed for use in plastic containers that comply with the requirements set out in Notification No. 435.

  1. draft Sustainable Packaging Management Act

Another movement that may play an important role for EPR in the near future is the draft Sustainable Packaging Management Act. On July 17, 2023, Mae Fah Luang University launched a public consultation process for the draft Sustainable Packaging Management Act.  The consultation ended on July 31, 2023. Mae Fah Luang University provided the report to the Pollution Control Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The draft Act will be amended and have new public hearing soon, which will be handled by the Pollution Control Department. The key provisions under this draft Act are as follows:

2.1 The Sustainable Packaging Management Policy Committee is empowered to prescribe the criteria for classifying packaging, which must be handled Entrepreneurs have the duty to register such packaging with the Pollution Control Department within 180 days, counting from the criteria’s publication in the Government Gazette.

2.2 Entrepreneurs are responsible for sustainable packaging management as follows:

(a) Reducing or avoiding the use of certain materials that are difficult to handle or not commercially viable, or packaging whose production or disposal would have a negative impact on the environment.

(b) Displaying labels or symbols on the packaging according to the conditions and criteria announced by the minister.

(c) Paying registration fees and environmental impact mitigation fees at the rate specified in the ministerial regulations.

(d) Collecting used packaging for reuse, recycling, industrial decomposition, energy conversion or safe disposal.

(e) Communicating information to the public to promote the sustainability benefits of sorting used packaging and returning used packaging.

(f)  Management of packaging by a compulsory redemption system or by a deposit and refund system, as announced by the Minister.

Entrepreneurs may assign an organization to be responsible on their behalf for the packaging management duties established under the draft Act in order to ensure that the entrepreneur’s responsibilities are carried out according to items (c) – (f) above.

2.3 Entrepreneurs who do not assign an organization to be responsible for packaging management on their behalf must submit their sustainable packaging management plan for approval by the director-general of the Pollution Control Department in accordance with the rules and procedures announced by the Minister.

The enforcement of this draft Act does not impose an imprisonment penalty. It only allows a fine as punishment, with the maximum penalty at not more than one million Thai baht. The related parties expect that this Act will be completed in 2025 and become effective in 2027.

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