Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Shifting the burden of recycling

Over the past two decades governments around the world have been experimenting with a new strategy for managing waste. By making producers responsible for their products when they become wastes, policy makers seek to significantly increase the recycling—and recyclability—of computers, packaging, automobiles, and household hazardous wastes such as batteries, used oil motor, and leftover paint—and save money in the process.

This strategy, known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), is the subject of a new special feature in Yale University's Journal of Industrial Ecology. The special feature examines the use of EPR across diverse scales—from countries to provinces and states—and investigates work underway in the U.S., the European Union, Canada, China, Brazil and the State of Washington.

"Since its conception in the early 1990s," says Sir Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, "extended producer responsibility has generated both intense enthusiasm and opposition. The analyses in this special feature bring a much needed rigor and sophistication to the understanding of this strategy."

Particular attention is paid to producer responsibility for e-waste including articles that:

- Evaluate the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to improve e-waste processing,
- Assess the adoption of EPR in developing countries,
- Detail the functioning of a "producer responsibility organization" (PRO) that fulfills producer take-back obligations through collection and recycling, and
- Analyze the restructuring of EPR as "individual producer responsibility" (IPR) in order to enhance the incentives for more recyclable products.