Introduction

Unbridled global consumption of manufactured products has generated significant waste and created major problems related to environmentally appropriate disposal and post-consumer waste management.

In light of this, on August 18 2014 the Superior Court of Justice recognised the post-consumer liability of potentially polluting product manufacturers for the first time.(1) The decision dealt with a class action for environmental damages caused by the environmentally inappropriate disposal of polyethylene terephthalate bottles used for packaging soft drinks.

According to the court, manufacturers must collect packaging that has been abandoned by consumers on streets, in streams and any other inappropriate places and implement advertising campaigns in order to spread the idea of gathering packaging.

To understand the importance of the court's decision, the background of post-consumer liability in the legal sector must be analysed.

Post-consumer liability

Federal Law 12.305 came into force in 2010 and established the National Solid Waste Policy, which outlined rules concerning the liability of manufacturers, distributors, importers and consumers for waste generated by potentially polluting products after consumption. This is known as post-consumer liability.

The National Solid Waste Policy also established a reverse logistics system, which is used to materialise post-consumer liability. This system is characterised by a set of actions, procedures and means of facilitating the collection and recovery of solid waste from business sectors for reuse in the same or other production cycles, or for environmentally appropriate disposal.

In a broader context, post-consumer liability has a preventive scope, as it encourages businesses to improve products and packaging in order to minimise the environmental impact that products have during their lifecycle, leading to a reduction of waste generation. However, all these mechanisms depend on one main factor: information.

Information is a key factor in a consumer society, as it enables consumers to decide consciously on the types of product that they wish to consume, as well as how to dispose of products in an environmentally sound manner. Thus, appropriate information allows consumers to understand exactly what they are consuming and that their choices have an impact (positive or negative) on the environment.

Comment

The Superior Court of Justice's decision demonstrates the court's maturity in relation to environmentally appropriate waste disposal and highlights that despite the challenge of dealing with waste generation, post-consumer liability may play a crucial role in encouraging responsible behaviour in relation to environmental protection.

For further information on this topic please contact Maria Alice Doria at Doria, Jacobina e Gondinho Advogados by telephone (+55 21 3523 9090) or email (madoria@djga.com.br). The Doria, Jacobina e Gondinho Advogados website can be accessed at www.djga.com.br.

Endnotes

(1) Special Appeal 684753, judged by Minister Antonio Carlos Ferreira.

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