Product stewardship encourages all parties that design, manufacture, sell, and use a product to share responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts associated with that product's life. This creates a framework to view products as resources rather than waste.
Manufacturers are encouraged to take a larger role in the collection and recycling of their products at end of useful life. At the early stages of a product's life, manufacturers can design products that are easy to recycle and contain fewer toxic chemicals. When product stewardship is integrated into overall design and manufacturing processes, environmental impacts are reduced.
Environmental benefits of product stewardship
- Conservation of resources by using fewer virgin materials
- Reduction in waste through reuse and recycling
- Using recycled material in new products
- Reduction in energy use yields less pollution, including gases that contribute to climate change.
- Reduction of toxic chemicals into the environment
Some stewardship initiatives are driven by individual companies that want to experience cost savings in their operations. Such initiatives tend to facilitate innovation and promote investment in new technologies, which yields environmental benefits.
Through the Supplies Return & Recycling Program offered as a part of the Xerox Green World Alliance, customers can send back Xerox-brand supplies for free recycling. Returned copier and printer cartridges are remanufactured for resale, containing an average of 90% reused/recycled parts.
This program has significantly reduced environmental impacts:
- Over 3 million printer cartridges and toner containers were returned to Xerox in 2003, keeping 17 million pounds of waste from entering landfills.
- In 2003, parts reuse saved energy (1.5 million megawatt hours) and prevented carbon dioxide emissions (698,000 tons).
Xerox also offers reuse and recycling options for their machines. Xerox will remove and recycle existing machines from customer sites when replacing with new equipment. Customers can pay to ship other used Xerox machines back to the company for free recycling.
The Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program keeps used shoes out of the waste stream, creating sports surfaces out of any brand of used or defective athletic shoes. Nike teams up with sports surfacing companies to include granulated Nike Grind shoe particles into various sports surfaces. Nike is conserving resources, reducing waste, and reducing their overall impact on the environment.
- Nike collects 1-2 million pairs of shoes each year, and claims over 28 million shoes have been recycled since 1990.
- It takes approximately 3,000 shoes to make a basketball court; 100,000 shoes go into making a Reuse-A-Shoe track.
- Nike designs athletic footwear that can be disassembled and recycled.
Nike is working on developing a long-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Nike-owned facilities and those of their suppliers. Industry Initiatives Industry initiatives are also motivated by economic efficiencies; these are typically carried out by a group of companies or manufacturers within a specific industry and the major outcome is a reduction in environmental impacts. Public education may be necessary to generate participation in the initiative.
Industry initiatives are also motivated by economic efficiencies; these are typically carried out by a group of companies or manufacturers within a specific industry and the major outcome is a reduction in environmental impacts. Public education may be necessary to generate participation in the initiative.
Approximately 350 million rechargeable batteries are purchased annually in the U.S. Call2Recycle has developed a nationwide collection program where retailers, businesses, communities, and public agencies collect and send used batteries to a recycling facility for processing. National retail partners include Best Buy, Home Depot, and Radio Shack.
Batteries are recycled into products such as new batteries and stainless steel, while keeping toxic metals-cadmium, mercury, and lead-from getting into the environment.
- Collected over 4 million pounds of rechargeable batteries in 2003, and has recycled more than 22 million pounds of rechargeable batteries since 1995.
- Nearly 80 percent of the total collected in 2002 was nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, keeping approximately 364,000 pounds of cadmium and 650,000 pounds of nickel out of the waste stream.
- The program collects these types of rechargeable batteries for recycling: Ni-Cd, nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium-ion (Li-ion), and small sealed lead (Pb).
Thermostat Recycling Corporation
TRC creates an option for heating and cooling contractors to drop off old mercury-switch thermostats, regardless of brand, at participating wholesalers. TRC has been recycling mercury-switch thermostats collected in participating states, including Minnesota, since January 1998. Wholesalers collect the thermostats and send them to the corporation's recycling center where the switches are removed and forwarded to a mercury recycler.
Collections throughout the U.S. in 2004 kept over 80,000 thermostats out of the garbage, yielding over 700 pounds of toxic mercury.