Sure, we should all reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible, and we want to provide you with resources to move your own household closer to zero waste. But just “doing our part” alone will never be enough, because many of the products we use every day simply aren’t designed to be recycled. Waste is built in to many of our products from the beginning.
TCE Fund and its partners advocate for Producer TakeBack recycling programs that make companies directly responsible for recycling their obsolete products. This represents a fundamental shift in the way waste is conceived of and handled in the U.S., for municipalities, manufacturers and retailers. The goal is to create a system in which we each create far less waste in the first place, and everything we do discard is designed to be reused or recycled in some way.
Since companies are responsible for recycling in this system, they have a market incentive to design products that are infinitely recyclable or compostable. Manufacturers will compete on the basis of how efficiently their products can be recycled, not just how efficiently they can be produced and marketed. This approach is often called “Cradle to Cradle,” in contrast to the typical solid waste management approach of “Cradle to Grave.”
New Approach Gaining Momentum
The Producer TakeBack system is gaining popularity at home and abroad. Many electronics companies such as Dell, HP, Apple and Sony are supporting Producer TakeBack policies and providing recycling options for their old and obsolete products. Major retailers such as Best Buy and Staples are offering free electronics recycling in their stores throughout the country—programs which are also profitable.
Federal and state policies are also shifting toward Producer Takeback recycling. In addition to the European Union, Japan, Taiwan and South Korean, 23 states in the U.S. have passed Producer TakeBack laws. Texas is the most populous U.S. state to pass such legislation; all companies selling computers and TVs in Texas are now required to offer free and convenient recycling options for their consumers. Learn how to use these manufacturer-based recycling programs:
Solutions for Today, Vision for Tomorrow
In the near-term, this will better address the need to keep waste out of landfills, incinerators, and illegal dumps. Producers, through their innovative marketing, extensive distribution, and existing relationship with consumers, are well positioned to provide convenient recycling options and recover large percentages of their waste. Retailers can participate by providing convenient drop-off locations, often in partnership with manufacturers. Also, shifting the financial burden for recycling from local governments and taxpayers to the manufacturers will make more resources available for municipalities to use on important services and functions for residents.
In the long-term, making companies financially responsible for recycling will give them a bottom line incentive to redesign their products with fewer toxins, and drive down recovery and recycling costs. Making producers responsible will lead to more sustainable product design and a reduction of waste generated because of the cost benefits these changes will give producers. This approach uses market forces to create a more sustainable, less polluting consumer production industry.