by Laila Ibrahim
The Federal Government has mapped out modalities to implement sanctions against erring companies in the areas of environmental degradation through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy as parts of efforts of the government to create healthy and sustainable environment
This, it said is part of efforts to ensure that companies cooperate and keep to the end of their bargain of acquiring their end products from the consumer.
As part of the sanctions, firms will be made to pay fines or face court sanctions, the Director General of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Dr. Ngeri Benebo, said.
The EPR programme was set up to ensure that companies buy back the end products from their users to ensure the sanitisation of the environment. A procedure that is tuned towards ‘the polluter pays’ principle.
It is also an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle.
The EPR policy is characterised by: the shifting of responsibility (physically and/or economically; fully or partially) upstream toward the producer and away from municipalities; and the provision of incentives to producers to take into account environmental considerations when designing their products. While other policies may target a single point in the chain, EPR seeks to integrate signals related to the environmental characteristics of products and production processes throughout the product chain.
By placing the responsibility for a product’s end-of-life environmental impacts on the producers, the EPR policy is also expected to push them to redesign their products for a friendly environment. Such change, while reducing waste management costs, should as well reduce materials use and enhance product reusability and recyclability.
Hence, the Programme will ensure that companies producing bottled water, drinks, sachet water etc, buy back the empty containers after the products have been consumed.
Speaking in an interview with journalists, Benebo, said all companies with products that have end products have been asked to set up collection centre where they can buy back their end products.
She noted that government had given the companies enough time to set up collection mechanisms as well as infrastructure that will take off some of the burden of cleaning up as government cannot do all alone .
“There are sanctions in place but we have not started applying it, we are giving them till next year to be able to put everything in place. But before the end of this year you must have your producer responsibility organisation. There are people that they can contract to do it for them, that is their umbrella name. So you can decide to do it on your own or a group of you can decide to do it, but you must have an outfit, either directly from your facility or external to your facility to carry out this activity for you. We are looking at January next year to kick off the sanctions”.
Benebo further noted that discussions with companies have been going on for a while now, giving them enough time to put in place all they needed for the EPR, hence sanctions were stalled.
“They are doing some corporate social responsibility here and there, but they are not doing the buy back of their products, because that is what gives a toll on our sanitation in the country. Because you take your yoghurt you throw the pack away, you take your coke you throw the pet bottle away, Bournvita, the can is thrown somewhere. Outside that we talk about electronics, everyday there are new models of phones coming in, you are discarding it, at least opportunity your phone gives problems, you just buy another one and throw it away, you can imagine how many of such batteries you throw away everyday” she said.
She further stated that government is now “saying that enough is enough, let people be responsible for the end results of their products, it is a part of polluter pays principle and that is what is done globally”.
She however noted that already, some companies are already buying in to the programme after initially dragging feet over gathering end products from far places where they are consumed.
“So where ever you have a distribution network use the same distribution network to collect and evolve a safe and environmentally sound method of disposing those products.
“So that in that way the burden of the waste is taken off a little bit from the municipality, because government cannot do all this alone” she said adding that “So it is a matter of polluter pays principle and everybody should be accountable for their wastes”.
Insisting that every company, small or large, whose products are consumed in Nigeria must strictly adhere to the EPR policy of government she said “for the smaller companies, if you are small your products can’t go far, so you can easily retrieve your products, because you don’t have the distribution networks. Since you don’t have the distribution network your products in Abuja cannot get to Borno state and if you are small what you are even going to produce will not cause such a menace to the society. Unlike when you get to everywhere you find coke, everywhere you find telephones”.
She added that for the sachet water packs , a lot is currently being taken off the streets while unfortunately more was being thrown back in, however in some states some cottage industries have mandated people to go round picking the empty sachets and they pay them. This, she said is later recycled into smaller balls which is used for some other products.