SA’s Paper Industry is Getting EPR Ready

South Africa’s paper and packaging sector have less than 14 days to register with Fibre Circle to comply with government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The deadline for EPR registrations is 5 November 2021 and outlines a new approach to waste management for paper, packaging and some single use products, lighting and electrical and electronic equipment. The aim is to divert waste from landfills and increase recovery, recycling and reuse of materials.

Fibre Circle, the producer responsibility organisation (PRO) for the South African paper and paper packaging sector, is pleased to announce that it currently has more than 80 members on its books for its EPR programme.

Fibre Circle’s member companies either manufacture or import paper or paper packaging (primary or secondary) or place their brands in paper-based packaging in the South African market.

The sector is currently developing an overarching scheme for the common aspects of the identified paper products, supported by product-specific plans.

The seven identified paper product classes include newspapers, magazines, office, graphic, mixed and other paper. As well as corrugated cases and kraft paper, liquid board packaging, paper labels and paper sacks.

Companies who have signed up to Fibre Circle’s EPR programme have also registered with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s South African Waste Information Centre (SAWIC). This is to ensure that they remain compliant and in step with the new EPR regulations which will govern how the end of life of paper and paper packaging is managed.

According to the EPR regulations all existing producers of identified products, at the time these Regulations come into effect (i.e., 5 May 2021), must register with DFFE within six months of the publication of the Government Notice. This puts the deadline at midnight of 4 November.

“These companies have taken the step to be part of Fibre Circle and join other companies as we map the EPR journey,” says acting CEO Jane Molony. “Given that there is no silver bullet, EPR can be a complicated exercise, and companies going it alone might find it onerous and costly.”

“By joining now, our members can be part of the collective change that we will make in terms of diverting paper products from landfill,” she says.

EPR plans will encompass collaboration with other PROs and municipalities, improving or establishing collection and sorting infrastructure, waste picker integration and consumer awareness.

Molony has noted a concern that the larger paper merchants have not yet registered with Fibre Circle, potentially leaving them in contravention of the regulations, but companies may choose to implement their own EPR programmes.

“Failure to do so,” says Molony, “may result in imprisonment, an appropriate fine or both.”

The regulations apply to importers of identified paper and paper packaging products as well.

“There are many types of paper grades that are not made in South Africa. These include coated graphic papers such as those used for printing glossy magazines and brochures, and high-end packaging. Paper merchants are the companies that help printers bring these into the country. They are required by law to pay an EPR fee per tonne of paper they import,” she says.

Three simple steps to ensuring EPR compliance:

  1. Find out if your company is a producer in the paper and paper packaging sector.
    1. The regulations define a producer as ‘any person or category of persons, including a brand owner, who is engaged in the commercial manufacture, conversion, refurbishment (where applicable) or import of new or used identified products’.
    2. If you manufacture or import more than 10 tonnes per annum of any of the identified paper products, you need to register with DFFE and with Fibre Circle.
  2. Register on
    1. DFFE will issue you with a registration number.
  3. Register with Fibre Circle on
    1. You will be sent a registration form for completion.
    2. Once approved, Fibre Circle will send you a confirmation of registration and a certificate.