Eco-modulation as an instrument to put the Circular Economy into practice
The circular package will bring many changes to the packaging and waste legislation of the EU Member States. One of the key emphasis is on the easily recyclable design of product packaging. Environmentally friendly packaging will be favored - ecologically and economically.
As of January 1, 2021, new waste legislation of the Ministry of the Environment came into force in the Czech Republic, which brings important changes in waste management. Thanks to these changes, we should be able to meet the mandatory European goals within the circular economy in the coming years. The complete package of waste legislation includes, among other things, an amendment to the Packaging Act, which introduces a completely new concept of eco-modulation.
The amendment to the Packaging Act emphasizes packaging and its respect for the environment and better recyclability. It is precisely eco-modulation that is intended to motivate manufacturers to use packaging solutions that will have a minimal negative impact on the environment.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Eco-modulation is part of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines extended producer responsibility 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 life cycle. Therefore, the aim of EPR is to take into account the environmental characteristics of products and production processes throughout the product chain.
An EPR policy is characterized mainly by two key points - the shifting of more or less part of the responsibility directly to manufacturers and the related provision of incentives for manufacturers to take into account their environmental impact during the development of products. To put it simply, one of the main tasks of the EPR system in the packaging industry is to create just such an environment in which it is economically most advantageous for manufacturers to produce products with the lowest possible negative impact on the environment.
Scale of charges
In practice, eco-modulation implements scale of charges for placing packaging on the market, which will favor those methods of packaging that are more environmentally friendly. "The new regulation will therefore allow easily recyclable packaging (for example from one type of material) to be cheaper than difficult-to-recycle packaging, such as those that combine different incompatible types of plastics (typically PET bottles with PVC sleeves)," said Petra Roubíčková, spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment. The fees will take into account a number of criteria, including for example recyclability of the product, its durability or the possibility of repairability and reusability.
Focus on packaging
In the case of packaging, particular account will be taken of how difficult it is to sort and subsequently recycle packaging by using the available technologies of current sorting lines. Not only the physical properties of packaging will come to the forefront of interest, but also the ability to easily identify used materials or their sufficient quantity on the market to make their sortability and recycling economically advantageous. At the same time, the ability to recycle packaging will be assessed not only in the home country, but also in the countries to which the product in the packaging is exported. Manufacturers should therefore be encouraged to use packaging solutions that are as unobtrusive as possible for waste management and the environment in general.
Impacts of eco-modulation
The Czech Republic has been truly proactive in sorting waste for many years. According to the results of EKO-KOM, a company providing sorting, recycling and utilization of packaging waste in the Czech Republic, a total of 73% of all Czech packaging was sorted in 2019 (unfortunately, values for 2020 are not yet published). "Czechs are amazing in sorting, but we would sort out to death. It is far better and more logical that packaging waste should not be generated at all," told Richard Brabec, the Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic, and added: "What people often point out: they buy a small product and it’s delivered in a huge box full of polystyrene. Ecomodulation should also address this phenomenon. The whole world is making pointlessly large packages.”
Therefore, the aim of eco-modulation is to motivate manufacturers and suppliers to take into account the amount and type of waste that will be generated, and it is necessary to think about it from the very beginning of the production of their product. The driving force in this case is primarily the price. Organically produced and packaged products could thus be cheaper than products from companies that do not follow this "eco" path.