Product Stewardship

ISRI created a task force including a representative from each commodity division to address drafting a policy statement regarding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) within the recycling industry. This task is broad and challenging as this policy statement needs to cover materials ranging from plastics to electronics and EPR programs from voluntary to mandatory. The new ISRI EPR policy was recently approved at ISRI’s Winter Board Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. For the Electronics Division, this represents very familiar territory as EPR has been a part of the electronics recycling landscape since the early 2000s. At the Winter Board Meeting, the Electronics Division retired the electronics policy to remove any uncertainty between the two policies.

The first EPR law passed in the United States was in 2003 in California. This law was not what is broadly defined as EPR legislation but rather an Advanced Recovery Fee (ARF). The fee was collected at the point of sale and provided California funds to administer to collectors and recyclers. In 2004 Maine past a more traditional EPR bill for the collection and recycling of electronics in that state. Subsequently, 23 other states have passed legislation initiating EPR policies.

As has been documented in several places, the results of this legislation have been a mixed bag. Indeed, the collection rates of electronics from consumers have increased across many states. However, many problems have resulted from the nature of EPR legislation. These problems have included speculative accumulation of CRTs resulting in large stockpiles of devices, lawsuits, and criminal charges. In other states, OEMs had met their quotas for recycling weight before the end of the fiscal year and left recyclers with the cost burden of additional collected materials. In some cases, OEMs have driven down prices to the point that it is difficult for ISRI members to be competitive in bidding the processing contracts.

With the new ISRI EPR policy, the goal is for EPR to rarely if ever be used. However, in certain cases where products or materials are extremely difficult to recycle, an EPR approach may be warranted on a temporary basis in hopes that markets will develop. 

Provided by Craig Boswell, HOBI International

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