Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws, which require the manufacturer of a product to be responsible for its ultimate recycling, reuse or disposal, has become a significant waste management option in recent years in the efforts to increase recycling and landfill diversion rates. Of the 67 laws that have been passed on specific products, only seven were adopted in the 1990s. The bulk of the laws have come in the past 10 years. (There are a total of 81 state EPR laws passed in the United States, counting all 50 states. There also have been nine local EPR laws.)
The Boston-based Product Stewardship Institute has actively championed EPR laws and proposed laws as a central part of its mission. "When manufacturers are responsible for managing their products at end-of-life, they are often motivated to make environmentally beneficial design changes that render products more sustainable throughout their life cycle," the association said.
Manufacturers have at times resisted producer responsibility laws, opting instead for voluntary, market-oriented plans. And some question how much impact on recycling and landfill diversion EPR laws have actually made to date. Nonetheless, legislative activity has accelerated as governments look for different ways to better improve their sustainability.