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Electronic waste from discarded circuit boards and laptop parts.

Product stewardship means that all parties involved in designing, manufacturing, selling, and using a product take responsibility for environmental impacts at every stage of that product's life. The greater the ability of a party to influence the life-cycle impacts of the product, the greater the degree of responsibility the party has for addressing those impacts.

In Minnesota, product stewardship initiatives are keeping millions of pounds of recyclables out of the waste stream. Minnesota adopted the first product stewardship policy in the United States in 1999. The MPCA seeks to develop voluntary commitments with businesses, non-governmental organizations, retailers, and others to increase the collection and recycling of identified consumer products.

Manufacturers that practice product stewardship share in the financial and physical responsibility for collecting and recycling products at the end of their useful lives. When manufacturers share the costs of recycling products, they have an incentive to use recycled materials in new products and design products to be less toxic and easier to recycle, incorporating environmental concerns into the earliest phases of product design.

Product stewardship encourages manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to treat products as resources rather than waste, changing how they think about the products they make, buy, and use.

Electronics

The rapidly growing number of computers, televisions, tablets, and other electronic items being used and discarded means that a substantial quantity of hazardous and toxic materials are entering the waste stream. At the same time, electronic products contain valuable glass, metals, and plastics that can be used to make new products.

Minnesota banned the disposal of electronic products containing a cathode-ray tube (CRT) in mixed municipal solid waste in 2006. Manufacturers of video-display devices must annually register and pay a registration fee to the state, collect and recycle specific consumer electronic devices from Minnesota households, and file a report detailing the results of their collections and recycling for each program year. Learn more:

Paint

In Minnesota, paint manufacturers must work to reduce paint waste, promote paint reuse and recycling, and provide for the collection, transport, and processing of paint for recycling and reuse. The work is being done by PaintCare, a nonprofit organization established by the American Coatings Association to fulfill state mandates. No architectural paint may be offered for sale in Minnesota unless the paint’s producer participates in an approved stewardship plan.

Minnesota has an established network of county household hazardous waste programs that collect paint from residents. PaintCare supports those programs and provides additional collection sites at retail locations.

PaintCare submits an annual report to the MPCA describing the methods used to manage paint, the weight of all paint collected, samples of educational materials, an independent financial audit, and more.

Rechargeable batteries

Minnesota prohibits rechargeable batteries and products with nonremovable rechargeable batteries from being disposed of in regular trash bins. In order to sell rechargeable batteries in the state, the rechargeable battery industry had to implement a state-approved collection program. In addition, rechargeable batteries and rechargeable products that don't meet the collection requirements can't be sold in Minnesota. Manufacturers can meet the requirements for collection by becoming a licensee of Call2Recycle.

Compact fluorescent lights

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) contain mercury, which makes their safe disposal an important issue for both public health and the environment. Minnesota has banned all fluorescent lamps from trash; they must be recycled. The state also requires utilities with 200,000 or more customers to collect fluorescent bulbs for recycling. Three U.S. states have enacted product stewardship laws for household fluorescent lamps.

Telephone directories

Telephone directories were banned from disposal in municipal solid waste in Minnesota in 1992. Publishers of telephone directories had to provide for collection and delivery of the directories to a recycler and inform recipients of the collection system.