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Posts Tagged ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’

ECOS – Environmental Council of the States (an organization of state environmental agency leaders) adopted a definition of “product stewardship” as:

“…the act of minimizing health, safety, environmental, and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages. The producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers, retailers, and consumers, also play a role. Stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law”

This in conjunction with their real interest of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR – aka you-made-it-you-eat-it):

“…a mandatory type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the requirement that the producer’s responsibility for its product extends to post-consumer management of that product and its packaging. There are two related features of EPR policy: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of their products and packaging”

ECOS almost got product responsibility right.  Except that it isn’t “an act,”  it’s acting on an ongoing basis using life cycle thinking.  It isn’t something that other stakeholders “play a role” in – it’s a shared responsibility of everyone involved with a product – everyone who can affect the life cycle (including the public sector).  At least they acknowledged that there are benefits associated with products – but they aren’t only economic benefits, unless they mean to cover quality of life and the pursuit of happiness under the term.  Mandatory product stewardship is also a nonstarter for me.  Product stewardship is an ethic.  While society can set regulations and punish violators, “mandating” how one should think doesn’t work.

EPR – another blog for another day.  EPR may or may not make sense as a tool of product stewardship in limited cases, but thank you, ECOS, it is not the same as.  I’m not convinced that “incenting” product stewardship this way is desirable or effective.  See an interesting report on EPR here showing it may not be such a cost-effective solution after all.  Mostly, I have issues with the fantasy that the consumer doesn’t pay for EPR take-back programs (customers pay for everything a company does) and that government knows what its doing in setting up false markets. Previous moaning here.

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