Recycling: Gov’t & NGOs Start Extended Producer Reponsibility Campaign

Few people in Georgia think of what happens when they throw something out in the trash. Two decades ago, waste wasn’t a big issue, since nothing was wasted because everything was valued. But with Georgia’s quick economic development has come rising awareness of the risks associated with poorly disposed of products- and Georgia finds itself far behind many others in seeking solutions to the challenge.

The path to a very large and complete recycling management, such as that of northern European countries, is still far off, but institutions, including the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources of Georgia, the United Nations Development Program, the Government of Sweden and the Georgian Environmental Organization, have begun a campaign on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Contrary to the traditional recycling process, EPR consists of making the producer of a good responsible for it even after it is consumed; the producer in that way being made responsible for the full life of what it produces.

The campaign concerns strategic waste, including electronic waste, batteries, end-of-life vehicles, oil, tires and packaging. These six categories of products carry a strong benefit in being reused to preserve natural resources and enable better environmental results for firms. Business opportunities can also be drawn from this shift, such as in terms of product design, which firms are invited to change in order to better conform with the recycling process.

Due to low funding, for now the plan focuses efforts on raising awareness among the younger generations and civil society and in institutions involved in the change, which in the case of EPR, are mainly firms. To that extent, an EPR manual will be published at the end of 2017 explaining the related challenges. The second objective is to plan waste management in cooperation with the concerned public to achieve the objectives Georgia has set for 2030. E-waste, including electronic waste and batteries, has been chosen as a pilot project and as a priority. A report gathering relevant data will be published at the beginning of 2018, followed by a management scheme by spring 2018. The end of this process will be a conference on E-waste, gathering all actors, in September 2018.

Although the project is ambitious, planning, for instance, to change the share of recycled batteries from 20% by 2020 to 80% by 2030, the main problem for Georgia remains its lack of precise data about waste. For example, according to the OECD, one third of waste corresponding to EPR programs is electronic waste, which represents a lot of opportunities. However, this data hides a spectrum of different products that can be recycled, along with the very different processes of recycling said products. This is why program organizers are calling on numerous institutions to contribute to this waste management change and to gather such data.

Georgia does not produce electronic devices but hosts many companies that sell them. Such companies could be invited to submit proposals based on their international experience. The EPR program, supported by the Georgian government, plans to work with experts from western Europe, which have a greater experience in waste management, and from eastern Europe, which have introduced this shift more recently, and are thus in a familiar enough situation to provide insight for Georgia.

David Mongazon

10 July 2017 16:46