Product stewardship and extended producer responsibility – alternatives to traditional solid waste and recycling strategies – were discussed during a summit in Boston on Feb. 28.

With product stewardship, producers work to minimize the health, safety, environmental and social impacts of their products and packaging throughout all lifecycle stages, with suppliers, retailers and consumers also playing a role. Stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law.

Extended producer responsibility is a mandated type of product stewardship whereby the manufacturer’s responsibility extends to post-consumer management of its products and packaging. EPR policy shifts financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, to the manufacturer and away from the public sector. It also provides incentives to manufacturers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.

Presenters at the EPR Summit included Scott Cassel, founder and CEO of the Product Stewardship Institute, which promotes voluntary and mandated product stewardship and advises manufacturers on post-consumer product management; Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the National Stewardship Action Council, who highlighted successful efforts to pass product stewardship legislation in California; and Allen Langdon, CEO of Encorp Pacific, who described the EPR system that his company manages covering most types of drink containers in British Columbia, Canada.

The EPR Summit, held at the Hynes Convention Center, was part of the Solid Waste Association of North America’s week-long SWANAPalooza conference. Summit sponsors included SWANA’s Southern New England Chapter, MassRecycle/Massachusetts Product Stewardship Council, and the Environmental Business Council of New England.

MMA staff and several municipal officials attended the summit. The MMA is examining various EPR and product stewardship models and evaluating the impact they would have on municipalities and the costs associated with managing solid waste and recycling.

At the March meeting of the MMA Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment, the Conservation Law Foundation gave a presentation on its legislation to develop an EPR system in Massachusetts. The bill (H. 750) would create a producer responsibility organization to sustainably manage post-consumer plastic product packaging. The organization would also be responsible for reimbursing municipalities for up to 80 percent of their associated recycling costs.

At its April meeting, the policy committee will hear a presentation from Claire Galkowski of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative about another EPR bill (H. 745).

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