Product stewardship, also called extended producer responsibility, is a philosophy whose basic principle is that producers of products and packages should take responsibility for their products from cradle to grave.
The goals of product stewardship are twofold: 1) to shift the cost of dealing with discarded products from taxpayers on to the products’ producers and users. There is an element of fairness here—if I choose not to buy/use a particular product, I don’t have to pay for that product’s “afterlife” through my taxes. 2) to try to influence producers to design products taking into account environmental considerations.
In theory, fees for products that are more harmful to the environment would be higher than those for more earth-friendly products. Consumers would then be able to see the effect that a particular product has on the environment, as reflected by its price, and would be able to make their choice accordingly.
A variety of product stewardship programs, both mandated and voluntary, are operating in Canada. In Saskatchewan, provincially-mandated programs for used oil materials, scrap tires, beverage containers, paint and electronics have been in place for several years. Voluntary programs for pesticide containers, pharma-ceuticals, and rechargeable batteries also operate here. All of these programs do a creditable job of handling their designated materials and having industry fund their “afterlife”. Many have fees that, at least partially, reflect the difficulty involved in handling particular materials. Design for environment is a little harder to influence from Saskatchewan….
[Source: March 2005 WasteWatch; updated Oct. 2012]
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