Product Stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility are systems-based solutions to reduce the life-cycle environmental and societal impacts of products and packaging.
Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing the health, environmental, and social impacts of a product and its packaging throughout its life cycle. 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.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a is a product stewardship policy framework to help create sustainable systems that continually reuse the materials in commerce according to their highest and best use. It is a foundational circular economy policy that helps increase the redesign, reuse and recycling of products and packaging by shifting funding and sometimes program management for these services from local governments, taxpayers and ratepayers to the producers of products and packaging and their consumers. EPR policy has two related features: (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.
In an EPR system the costs of redesign, reuse, recycling, composting and even some disposal options for consumer products and packaging are included in the retail price. This approach ensures that the costs of end-of-use management are born by producers and consumers, rather than externalized onto society or the environment. The proper environmental management of the product and its package for their highest and best use become part of the costs of doing business, like R&D, marketing, and logistics.
With extended producer responsibility, manufacturers have incentives to design their products to use less material, less toxics, and be recycled at the end of their useful life – turning what was formerly “waste” into the “food” for industry and the next generation of products.
UPSTREAM was the first national organization to widely promote extended producer responsibility as a transformative solution to our production and consumption problems. While there are many organizations working on EPR policy, we are the only national organization with a public-interest focus working for comprehensive EPR policy reform in the United States today.