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Product Stewardship (Archived, No Longer Updated): Reasons for Product Stewardship
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Product Stewardship
Types and Examples of Product Stewardship
Principles of Product Stewardship
Case Studies and Examples
Where to Go for P2 Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Extended Producer Responsibility: A Materials Policy for the 21st Century
This book addresses materials use and its environmental impacts worldwide; EPR policies and programs...

The Product Policy Institute
Resources including numerous articles on EPR and sample legislation language and case studies for lo...

In the United States, managing solid waste has long been the responsibility of local government and taxpayers. This financing mechanism externalizes the environmental costs to the taxpayer-- rather than internalizing the costs to the consumer--and encourages the proliferation of throw-away products and packaging.

This system leaves manufacturers with little financial incentive to make products less toxic, more recyclable, lighter weight, more efficiently packaged, etc. Although some of these design parameters are improving with the desire to be greener in general and mitigate global warming impacts, essentially, the consumer covers the costs of production, while the ratepayer (also the consumer) covers the costs of disposal.

Electronics is a great example of why product stewardship is so important. Computers especially, as they quickly become obsolete, and the collective volume of electronic waste generated is staggering. They are often hard to recycle due to dissimilar and multiple materials. They are designed with toxic materials such as brominated fire retardants and heavy metals, which pose potentail user exposure issues as well as leaching or toxic emissions if not properly disposed of or managed at end of life. An EPA report estimates that 29.9 million desktops and 12 million laptops were discarded in 2007. (That’s over 112,000 computers discarded per day!). The report estimates that 31.9 computer monitors were discarded in 2007 – both flat panel and CRTs. In a 2006 report, the International Association of Electronics Recyclers projects that with the current growth and obsolescence rates of the various categories of consumer electronics, (a broader list than the EPA used above, including DVDs, VCRs, mainframes) somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 billion units will be scrapped during the rest of this decade, or an average of about 400 million units a year. (More...)

Governments, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers all have a role to play in product stewardship - to accomplish these improvements and reduce environmental impacts. By extending the responsibility of all these actors in the product lifecycle, product stewardship leverages the mechanism of the free market to promote environmental protection (especially reduce toxics, energy, and greenhouse gases) by:

  • Improving resource efficiency in products;
  • Increasing resource recovery;
  • Minimizing the generation of waste (including hazardous substances);
  • Improving the management of post-consumer waste;
  • Reducing the risks to human health from poor management of products; and,
  • Incorporating product management costs into consumer price signals.


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Hub Last Updated: 9/27/2012