Extended producer responsibility and product take-back: applications for the Pacific Northwest
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This report examines the principles, practices and policies of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and "product take-back" programs, and their potential application to the Pacific Northwest. EPR is an emerging principle for sustainable development that encourages producers to design their consumer products and delivery systems to keep waste and hazardous materials out of the waste stream. At its core, EPR focuses on the responsibility that producers have for the waste and environmental impacts their products generate at the end of their life-cycle. We have examined EPR to determine the degree to which product take-back policies and practices can contribute to the development of an environmentally sustainable regional economy. The search for new approaches to sustainability is driven, in part, by the fact that the region is struggling to conserve energy and water while restoring endangered salmon and other ecological systems at the same time that pollution and waste are growing at, or above, the rate of economic and population growth. We begin this assessment by discussing the principles and practices associated with EPR and product take-back. We then examine a number of policy approaches and instruments that have been used to promote EPR. This is followed by case studies of selected take-back programs established voluntarily by major U.S. corporations. We conclude with an analysis of the key issues that must be addressed to develop effective EPR policies and programs in the Pacific Northwest. The appendix includes the information generated from our case studies of both voluntary and mandated take-back programs in nine countries, covering five major industries.