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Product Stewardship (Archived, No Longer Updated): Case Studies and Examples
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:

Better by Design
This guide offers a simple, systematic way to weave environmental considerations into product design...

EPA's Design for Environment Website
The Design for the Environment (DfE) Program convenes partners, including industry representatives a...

INFORM's Product Stewardship website
This hub for information on extended producer responsibility (EPR) and product stewardship includes ...

Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance's Product Stewardship website
Includes definitions, background information, and case studies about product stewardship.

Product Stewardship Institute
The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) works with state and local government agencies to partner wi...

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

WasteWise Update: Extended Producer Responsibility Case Studies
Case studies from EPA's WasteWise partners.

The following cases are just a few examples, case studies, and statistics of how product stewardship has been implemented and reduced environmental impacts.

Take Back Programs

  • Case Studies on Product Takeback Schemes - Survey results from around the globe- on takeback schemes for batteries, paint, whitegoods, office furniture, timber, mattresses, carpet, and more.

  • Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical products are ubiquitous; millions of pharmaceuticals become wastes each year as products pass their expiration date, become unwanted, or patients die. Ongoing studies reveal that pharmaceuticals may be abused, and are entering into the environment, presenting both wastewater and solid waste management challenges, and releasing some chemicals that can act as endocrine disruptors (been linked to abnormalities and impaired reproductive performance in some species). Currently, there is a lack of understanding as to whether there are convenient, consistent, legal, and safe ways to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals. This has led to environmental damage, as well as to unsafe storage practices that have resulted in accidental poisonings. Some have taken a shared responsibility and developed programs to take back unneeded medicines.

    Unwanted medicine Return Program - Washington State

    Drug Take Back Stakeholder Report - Oregon State

    Post Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association - British Columbia

Take Back & Remanufacture

The Caterpillar example has also proven that the combination of manufacturing and remanufacturing does enable a company to develop an extended, or even comprehensive, stewardship for its products. Engines and parts remanufactured by Caterpillar are sold exclusively through the Caterpillar parts distribution network (Caterpillar dealers). In exchange for this exclusivity, Caterpillar offers its dealers a variety of innovative product take-back incentives, ensuring that the large majority of its parts are returned by the dealers to Caterpillar. These incentives include a:

  • buy-back guarantee for unused (unsold) parts inventory
  • deposit scheme on remanufactured parts and engines (a core deposit fee) as an incentive for dealers to return used parts to Caterpillar
  • voluntary take-back of surplus used products at a price above the scrap value.

Take Back and Design for Environment

Bosch Power Tools (Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998). Take Back: Bosch has a highly organized system of power tool take-back that results in pricing incentives for customers, and recovery of materials that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated. "A typical Bosch power tool contains a diverse range of materials and is made up of over 200 components. The materials include iron, steel, aluminum, copper and various plastics - all of which are recyclable. The inappropriate disposal of power tools to landfill contributes to environmental problems such as the non-sustainable use of resources and the contamination of aquatic ecosystems owing to leaching from components or casings containing heavy metals." The system also allows maximum recovery of batteries containing heavy metals.

Design for Environment (DfE): Bosch initiatives aim at minimizing the life-cycle environmental impacts of its products, from product design through manufacture, logistics, use and recycling. DfE plays a key role in making takeback more environmentally effective and commercially viable, especially designing for end-of-life disassembly, sorting and reprocessing. A Bosch-accredited company "acts as a key stakeholder in managing the logistics and transportation of tools to a Bosch facility where they are disassembled so that recyclable materials can be recovered, sorted and segregated". If there are problems identifying and separating materials into specific types, the complete tool is shredded by more conventional methods and only metals are recovered.

Dell Computer Corporation has been working toward mercury-free lighting for notebooks, transitioning to LED backlights. They are remains committed to eliminate the remaining uses of brominated fire retardants and polyvynil chloride (PVC) in their products (but a specific timeline has not been identified).
They are participating in Lead-Free enterprise products, ahead of anticipated European Union regulation (in 2014). They currently take back end-of-life computers and have used over 1M pounds of recycled content plastics in their products in 2008, with a goal is to increase use of recycled content
plastics across the Dell portfolio. These are some of the product stewardship efforts underway at Dell.

Three Cases in Servicizing (Summary of aricle by Sandra Rothenberg, 2007, Sloan Review)

The experiences of three companies — Gage Products, PPG Industries and Xerox — whose present business models help customers purchase less of their traditional products, faced and overcame some obstacles. Each company offers a different set of products, yet they all profitably shifted to providing services that help customers meet their goals while using less of these products. Environmental benefits resulted.

  • Gage: Because of the specialized nature of one its newer products, chemical solvent blends for automotive paint applications, Gage needed to take an active role in the management of customers’ paint shop operations. Its employees would routinely work at assembly plants to consult on color changes, adoption of new application equipment or the use of specialty paint blends. Over time, Gage became not just as a supplier of solvents but also as a color change expert. Gage then introduced a more environment-friendly cleaned paint circulation material - which allowed Gage to take even greater responsibility not only for introducing new materials but also for ensuring their proper and more efficient use, with an ultimate reduction in cleaning solvents sold. (Customers benefit from the services, buying less material, and reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) releases).
  • PPG Industries: In the late 1990s, PPG Industries, a coatings manufacturer, was asked by an automotive customer to assist in reducing paint due to high costs and environmental regulations. One PPG manager explained, “The automotive companies were going to move down a path of trying to decrease usage, whether we participated in that relationship or not. So what PPG decided pretty early in the game was that participating in that transition and helping to manage it was more beneficial than waiting for it to be thrust upon us.” A new arrangement, with on-site PPG representatives allowed PPG to take over some management tasks at the customer's plant, including material ordering, inventory tracking, inventory maintenance and even some regulatory-response duties. This increased service role helped their customer reduce material use. Interestingly, the new business model started to become the norm for the industry.
  • Xerox Corp: In 1994, Xerox started calling itself “the Document Company,” marking a change in strategy that focused less on devices that create printed materials and more on the information that flows within a business. A key component of this service is focused on improving the productivity of the office environment. Xerox introduced the Office Document Assessment tool, which analyzes the total costs associated with different document-making processes. The result "offers a range of suggestions for increasing office efficiency, improving worker productivity and reducing costs. Often central to such suggestions is reducing the number of devices through consolidation, which leads to reductions in the use of toner, paper and other consumables, all of which Xerox sells. The reduction in total devices can be substantial, moving from a ratio of more than one device per employee to a ratio of one device per 10 or more employees".

Leasing and DfE

Leasing: Dell Computer Corporation created a substantial corporate leasing program in order to increase sales and build long-term relationships with customers. The company began leasing as a way to provide a service their clients were demanding. Because of rapidly developing technology, many customers have high computer turnover. The leasing program, where a company's computers are updated every 24 to 36 months, eliminates the burden of obsolescence and disposal for the customer. Customers get record-keeping information from Dell, and do not incur additional staff time and effort to handle disposal issues. In turn, Dell makes sure that the old machines are managed in an environmentally responsible way and is able to provide their customers with service that keeps them coming back to Dell.

DfE: Because Dell computers are built for serviceability, disassembly and reuse, the company is able to remarket many of these previously leased or owned products, extending the life of the computers and keeping them out of landfills. The design changes that have made recovery and reuse possible have also lowered Dell's manufacturing costs.


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Hub Last Updated: 9/27/2012