Product Stewardship is a management tool or strategy that ties the producer, product designer, seller, and user of a consumer product to the product’s impact on the environment incorporating manufacture, use, and final deposition. The life cycle of a product is greatly affected by the manufacturer, its design and materials selected. Impacts can occur throughout the lifecycle of a product and its packaging, and are associated with energy and materials consumption; waste generation; toxic substances; greenhouse gases; and other air and water emissions.
In a product stewardship approach, manufacturers that design products and specify packaging have the greatest ability, and therefore greatest responsibility, to reduce these impacts by attempting to incorporate the full lifecycle costs into the cost of doing business.
The terms Product Stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are often used differently by stakeholders involved in the product stewardship movement. Product Stewardship, and Extended Producer Responsibility differ, but both seek to redress the imbalances in the current system.
The following definitions for Product Stewardship and EPR were developed by the Product Stewardship Institute. EPR’s legislative approach requires further clarification found below under the Principles of Extended Producer Responsibility. The Connecticut Product Stewardship Council has adopted these definitions and principles of EPR.
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.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a mandatory type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the requirement that the producer’s responsibility for their 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 into the design of their products and packaging.
Principles of Extended Producer Responsibility
The following EPR Principles include key elements that should be included in all EPR legislation. Although these Principles will be applied differently by different jurisdictions, they are aspirational and considered best practice to achieve maximum results.
In Connecticut, several legislative initiatives have resulted in Extended Producer Responsibility for targeted products. These Public Acts require manufacturers to assume responsibility after the sale and use of the product by the consumer. This approach shifts disposal responsibility away from the public sector and provides incentives for product redesign.