The growing product stewardship movement in the United States seeks to ensure that those who design, manufacture, sell, and use consumer products take responsibility for reducing negative impacts to the economy, environment, public health, and worker safety. These 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 in the cost of doing business.
The Council focuses its work on products that meet specific criteria. Work is conducted via subcommittees comprised of Steering Committee Members, Partners and other stakeholders. The Council is currently focusing on two main products: 1) Electronics and 2) Pharmaceuticals; with the possibility of exploring alkaline batteries and household hazardous waste.
Product selection is based on the following criteria:
- The cost to local governments for the handling and disposal of the products;
- The quantity of the products entering the waste stream;
- The toxicity of the product throughout the lifecycle of the product;
- The potential for private sector participation in voluntary product stewardship programs and activities;
- The potential for mandatory action or legislative support to encourage the development of product stewardship programs;
- The potential for innovation in design that results in an environmentally-sound and sustainable product.