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Product Stewardship- What is it?
“Product Stewardship is 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." Product Stewardship Institute
Product stewardship is a way of doing business that changes how products are designed and how waste is managed. It is rapidly gaining ground in the United States as a more effective and efficient method of managing resources. Over 30 states have enacted at least one producer responsibility law, with one state (Maine) passing six such laws for various products. The E-Cycle Wisconsin program is the first product stewardship law passed in the state and has resulted in greatly increasing recycling of various electronics including TV’s, computers, monitors, printers, DVD and VCR players. WDNR E-Cycle
Product stewardship programs can take many forms and service types, from voluntary to mandatory, drop-off, retail take-back, or curbside collection. One key to successful product stewardship programs is sustainable funding for the proper management of products and packaging. Manufacturers pay for collecting, recycling, or appropriately disposing of their products at the end of their useful life. Retailers may serve as collection points for used or leftover products and distribute information to the consumer. Government has a limited role in product stewardship systems to ensure fairness (e.g. all manufacturers are subject to the same requirements), effectiveness (e.g. performance levels are achieved), and consumer protection, but the private sector has flexibility in program design and implementation. Consumers play a critical role by participating in collection or take-back programs. Recyclers assure that products are disassembled and recycled in a manner that does not harm workers or the environment.