Government, food and beverage firms say all must be on same page on EPR


GOVERNMENT and food and beverage company officials in the country underscored the importance of having a “unified” understanding among all sectors in complying with the requirements under the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) Act. 

“We all know the deliverables under the EPR law, but the key here should be a clear understanding, a unified understanding by all sectors because if we interpret the law differently, then we cannot reach our objectives,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said at the forum “The EPR Law: What Goes Around, Comes Around” on Friday organized by the BusinessMirror. 

The DENR official stressed that the challenge lies in making all sectors in the country aware of the deliverables under the law, particularly what will be the support and resources given by the private sector. 

For instance, he said, while there are only 642 that have registered thus far, out of the 4,000 enterprises obliged to practice EPR, Leones said “We cannot blame those who have not registered, maybe they do not know the requirements of the law.” 

Through another government agency’s lens, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it is important to raise awareness of the local government units (LGUs) on the system and processes and how to “go about the partnership with the EPR law implementation.” 

“The DILG is committed to partner closely with the DENR as well as partner-business organizations in localizing this law as well as raising the awareness of LGUs and probably this will help out LGU in probably improving their solid waste management plan, especially on plastics,” DILG Bureau of Local Government Supervision Director Debie T. Torres said at the same forum. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) cited the challenges in implementing the law on the side of manufacturers and consumers. 

For one, DTI-Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo said for the manufacturers, “It’s first finding the alternative on what material are they going to use; that is an issue that we have been discussing in the National Solid Waste Management Commission in declaring plastic straws and plastic coffee stirrers as non-environmentally acceptable products.” 

According to Castelo, industries question what alternative solutions they can provide. In the same way, she said, “I’m sure that the manufacturers find it difficult to find alternatives for plastic.” 

For consumers, the challenge to DTI is making everyone understand. “Number one, why we have the EPR law, why we need to be sustainable consumers, why we need to preserve the planet…These are all connected ideas that we need people to understand.” 

Castelo stressed that the DTI, being an advocate of the EPR law and as an agency that advocates for sustainable consumption and production, cannot do it alone. 

Food manufacturers

Meanwhile, businesses engaged in food also raised the challenges they are experiencing in complying with the law.

For US-based multinational snacks company Mondelez International, Corporate and Government Affairs Lead Caitlin Nina Punzalan said, “…the challenge is really…starting from the beginning, is to find out what is our output because it’s not a straightforward matter, it involves cross-functional research, understanding how much do we really produce, what is the weight of what we produce.” 

Punzalan said these are the factors to consider as the company needs to make sure it complies with the EPR law. But, the Mondelez official stressed, they are slowly overcoming this challenge with the help of experts. 

“We really target a certain number. It was a challenge at the beginning. But we are fortunate that we have expert partners in helping us. Because we are a snacks company, we know how to make cheese, make chocolates, but we don’t know how to account for all of our waste yet,” Punzalan said. 

For major food and beverage firm Nestlé Philippines, Head of Corporate Affairs Jose Uy said the most difficult part is the packaging material. 

“While we have solutions for now as an interim action to address EPR and plastic neutrality…it’s actually coming up with the right packaging that is food grade, food safe, and the material can accommodate recycle and post-consumer recycled content which is very critical, because we want to cut the use of virgin plastics and hopefully used packaging can be recycled and used again in developing new packaging,” Uy said. 

In coming up with packaging material solutions, Uy said, “That is technology work underway.” Moving forward, he said, “We are very open and committed to work with the international community, researchers, and other companies and government sectors to ensure that we develop that packaging material to address this circularity and issue on sustainability.”