The theory behind product stewardship is that all those involved in producing, selling, and using products should be responsible for the full environmental impact of the product. This includes manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and government.
Manufacturers have the best ability to reduce the entire life-cycle impact of a product and its packaging. Their decisions affect energy and material consumption, air and water emissions, toxic constituents, worker safety, and waste disposal prospects resulting from product design and end-of-life management. Under certain laws manufacturers must develop mandated take-back programs for specific products, while for other products, manufacturers voluntarily offer take-back programs.
Retailers play their part by choosing product providers who offer greater environmental performance, educate consumers on how to choose environmentally preferable products, and enable consumers to return products for recycling. Like manufacutrers, certain retailers must particpate in certain mandatory take-back programs, while other retailers voluntarily participate in take-back programs.
Consumers close the loop by ultimately making the choice between competing products. The consumers’ role in the product-stewardship loop is to make responsible buying choices, use products safely and efficiently, and dispose of products safely. To learn more about opportunities for conumer participation, see the take it back nyc page.
Governments at the state and local level manage solid waste programs in the United States. The financial and regulatory burdens of this task make governments vital to developing and promoting product stewardship initiatives. Governments at all levels can strongly encourage product stewardship through their procurement activities. As the country’s largest single consumer, the federal government shares responsibility for increasing product stewardship. Federal agencies can use their purchasing power as market leverage to create incentives to design products that result in less waste, are more readily reused and recycled, contain less-toxic materials, and are made with recycled content.
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