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Background, Problems, Alternatives & Legislation:


The U.S. generates approximately 300 million scrap tires each year, with Illinois generating more than 12 million tires annually - the equivalent of one tire per person in the State.  According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), markets exist for approximately 85% of scrap tires, such as tire derived fuel, civil engineering applications, and crumb rubber products.  In Illinois whole tires have been banned from landfills since 1992.  SInce then, the Illinois EPA has cleaned up more than 10 million scrap tires that were improperly discarded.  Every year the Illinois EPA conducts more than 100 scrap tire clean-ups throughout the state. 


  • Discarded tires can serve as habitats for disease-carrying vectors, such as mosquitoes and rodents;
  • Tires that are illegally burned contaminate the air, water and land; and
  • Tires that are illegally stockpiled retain heat, making them prone to spontaneous combustion

Alternatives to Disposal

According to the Illinois EPA scrap tires can be used in road base, running tracks, playgrounds, horse arenas and tired derived fuel (TDF) that is blended with coal to produce electricity.


To view existing Product Stewardship efforts in the U.S., visit the Product Stewardship Institute's Map of EPR laws.



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The Problem:  Disposal, Cost

Every year, more than 8 million individuals across the U.S. use more than 3 billion needles, syringes, and lancets- also called sharps -to manage medical conditions at home.  According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), medical sharps (including syringes, pen needles, and lancets) enable consumers to self-inject medications at home or away from traditional healthcare settings.  The majority of sharps outside of the healthcare setting enter the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream every year in the U.S. from  two main sources : individuals managing their own health care at home by self-injecting medication, representing two-thirds of needles used, and intravenous drug users.   Individuals living with diabetes generate the majority of medical sharps. 

As self-injection of medications becomes more common, the number of medical sharps is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.  Unfortunately medical sharps are routinely discarded in household trash, recycling bins or flushed down the toilet by self-injectors at home.  These disposal methods cause potential for injury or the potential transmission of infectious disease to homeowners, sanitation workers, sewage treatement plant operators and waste management personnel at transfer stations, landfills and recycling facilities.  Sharps also cause costly maintenance issues when the sharps become jammed in equipment.



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The Problem: Disposal, Pollution, Poisonings, Abuse

The number of prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. in 2009 increased from 2.1% (from 3.8 billion to 3.9 billion), a larger growth rate than the 1.0% increase in 2008 from 2007.  From 1999-2009 the number of prescriptions increased 39% (from 2.8 billion to 3.9 billion), compared to a U.S. population growth of 9%, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 Prescription Drug Trends Fact Sheet.   

This means that more often than not, households have left-over medications that they need to dispose of including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, free samples,  controlled substances, and dietary supplements (vitamins).

Limited Options for Proper Disposal: Safe and proper disposal methods are currently not available to consumers in many communities due to regulatory and financial barriers for take-back programs in the U.S. Therefore, people use the avenues of disposal available to them.  Many households will store medications before they finally resort to improper disposal such as flushing pills down the toilet, disposing of medications in the trash, or illegally giving them to someone else.

Water Pollution:  Pharmaceuticals enter the water when they are flushed down toilets and sinks, put into the garbage, or when humans and animals pass drugs through their bodies. Conventional wastewater treatment is not able to eliminate the majority of pharmaceutical compounds. Scientists are now finding chemicals from medicines in almost every sample taken from surface water, effluent, and drinking water in the U.S. and Canada. 

Long Term Exposure: There is increasing concern about the disposal of medicines in the garbage which ends up at our landfills. Landfill runoff may be routed to treatment plants that don't effectively extract the chemical compounds from medicines and then it is discharged into our local waters. There is also concern that landfill liners may leak over time allowing contaminants to enter the ground water.

Poisoning: Medicines stored in our homes can lead to accidental poisonings if they are not securely stored.  In the U.S., medications are the most common poison exposure category. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2004, 95% of unintentional and undetermined poisoning deaths were caused by drugs. In 2000, poisonings led to $26 billion in medical expenses and made up 6% of the economic costs of all injuries in the United States.

Misuse and Abuse: Prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and controlled substances are targets of drug users. Unsecured disposal in the garbage or at improper facilities may result in increased drug abuse or dealing. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that the number of Americans who abuse controlled prescription drugs has nearly doubled from 7.8 million in 1992 to 15.1 million in 2003. Prescription drug abuse among teens has more than tripled during that time.

Product Stewardship Solutions

Product Stewardship solutions include activities that manufacturers as well as retailers, governments and consumers can take to minimize the environmental and health impact of the product throughout all stages of the products' life cycle, including end-of-life management.

Take Back Programs: Unwanted medicines present both a public safety and environmental hazard if no secure disposal options exist. Therefore, a safe collection and disposal alternative is necessary.  Ideally, residential customers should be able to take back unwanted medicines to local pharmacies, drug stores and other convenient locations so that they can be safely destroyed. 

Legislation: Product Stewardship legislation often requires that drug manufacturers provide funding for a statewide program to collection and safely dispose of unused medicines. The program cost could be incorporated into the price of the product for a few pennies per prescription.  Residents would have access to convenient take back locations at pharmacies, drug stores and other locations. Local and state governments would provide oversight and would publicize the program.

Phone Books

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The Problem: Volume, Cost

According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), the availability of online search resources means fewer people are using conventional print telephone directories every year.  However, more than 650,000 tons of telephone directories are still delivered annually to households and businesses across the U.S.  While one-third of all telephone directories are recycled, 410,000 tons of phone directories still find their way to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities costing U.S. taxpayers around $60 million each year in management costs. Local governments spend around $54 million annually to dispose of directories and about $9 million to recycle them.  Telephone directory recycling also presents operational challenges, as directories are often distributed with materials that contaminate the recycling process, such as glues, magnets and plastic film. This costs recyclers and local government money as magnets and plastic film contaminate the paper recycling process.

A 2013 survey by RingCentral found that more than half of U.S. adults (58%) said that they use phone books at home, work or both.

Publishers note that telephone directories are 100% recyclables and are made using soy-based and non-toxic inks, glues and dyes.  According to the Pulp and Paper Products Council, the Yellow Pages reduced paper by nearly 60% from 2007-2012 and are projected to increase reduction to more than 60% by 2014. 

Take Action on Phone Books

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is working to reduce unwanted telephone directories and increase recycling.  PSI has information on telephone directory legislation in U.S. communities as well as an infographic on how many phone books go to waste (PDF).  Consumers may opt-out of receiving telephone directories here.



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The Problem: Volume, Cost, Waste, Toxicity

Leftover consumer paint is a high volume, costly, and wasted resource. Oil base paint is highly toxic and can have detrimental health and environmental impacts.

Volume: An estimated 64 million gallons of leftover consumer paint was generated in the U.S. in 2000.

Cost: The Paint Product Stewardship Initiative (PPSI) has estimated the cost for local governments to manage leftover consumer paint averages approximately $8 per gallon.

Waste: Due to the high cost of managing leftover paint, some local governments have decided to not accept latex paint, which makes up 70-80% of leftover paint. Leftover paint is a resource that still has value when made into recycled-content paint (RCP) – which reduces the amount of raw materials that need to be extracted and processed to manufacture new virgin paint.

Toxicity: Oil-based paints are highly toxic and can harm fish and wildlife, as well as pollute groundwater if dumped on the ground. If used in closed areas, volatile organic compounds in paints can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs and cause headaches and nausea. They can also contribute to asthma, other respiratory problems, muscle weakness, and liver and kidney damage. Latex paints are less toxic and not considered hazardous, but excess paint should not be poured down the drain.

Product Stewardship Solutions
Paint manufacturers, retailers, and others can work together to reduce the amount of unwanted paint and manage leftover paint properly.

Paint Take Back Programs: Manufacturers can set up statewide "take-back" locations to collect unwanted paint and increase the recycling rate of paint where possible. Local and state governments can help to publicize these programs.

Legislation:  There are several states that have enacted Product Stewardship legislation for paint in the U.S. and many provinces in Canada. Typically, the paint manufacturer finances and provides the take back program via a Product Stewardship organization such as PaintCare. An "assessment" is included in the price of the product that the consumer pays when they buy their paint. The manufacturer is responsible for meeting specific performance goals such as providing convenient, accessible collection locations throughout the state. Local and state governments help to publicize the program while retailers and consumers take an active role in ensuring that paint is properly recycled.

Design: Manufacturers can improve the design of paint by reducing the toxic components and volatile organic compounds contained in paint.

Market Development: To effectively close the loop on recycling paint, there needs to be significant market demand for the recycled paint at a price that supports the recycling system plus reasonable profit. Manufacturers and retailers can advertise and sell recycled paint in their retail stores.

Illinois Paint Stewardship:  Illinois could gain financial benefits of $17 million annually on the collection and management of nearly 2.2 million gallons of leftover paint every year. This cost typically represents 50% of municipal household hazardous waste budgets.  Illinois has a unique opportunity to enact paint stewardship legislation in partnership with the paint industry.  This opportunity to work together to save money for Illinois' state and local governments is the result of a national, multi-stakeholder agreement facilitated by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).  A statewide paint stewardship program would mean that the paint industry would be responsible for collecting and managing leftover paint in Illinois, reducing the role of government and the burden on taxpayers. 

Benefits of paint stewardship in Illinois would include the following

  • Reduced government cost;
  • More recycling opportunities;
  • Green sector jobs - more in-state jobs would be created in the paint industry;
  • Less disposal, more recycling - more paint would be diverted from disposal facilities and recycled, which helps the State reach its recycling goal; and
  • Less waste - the industry would educate the public to buy the right amount of paint for a project and reduce waste