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Product Stewardship (Archived, No Longer Updated): Types and Examples of Product Stewardship
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Product Stewardship
Types and Examples of Product Stewardship
Principles of Product Stewardship
Case Studies and Examples
Where to Go for P2 Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Better by Design
This guide offers a simple, systematic way to weave environmental considerations into product design...

Clean Car Campaign
The Clean Car Campaign is a national campaign promoting a clean revolution in the motor vehicle indu...

Designing for the Environment: A Design Guide for Information and Technology Equipment
Developed by the American Plastics Council (APC) and a variety of original equipment manufacturers (...

Governments, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers all have a role to play in product stewardship - to accomplish these improvements and reduce environmental impacts. Some of the different models of product stewardship include product take back (for disassembly, recycle, remanufacture, or reuse), green procurement, product or ingredient bans, lifecycle and design for environment tools, product certification, incentives, and leasing/servicizing to reduce waste.

Product Take Back Programs

Take back programs (often linked with or synonymous with extended producer responsibility or EPR) give onus to manufacturers and/or retailers to assume physical or fiscal responsibility for their products at the end of their useful lives. In order to make product recycling work, infrastructure is necessary to collect products for recycling, dismantle products and prepare the materials they contain for recycling, and markets are needed to buy and use the value‐added materials.

When manufacturers or others establish take back programs, all this infrastructure is necessary. Take back programs may be mandated by the government or law, as with Germany's Ordinance on the Avoidance and Recovery of Packaging Wastes, or it can be voluntary.

The PPRC offers this checklist of activities for starting a product takeback program.

Take Back Examples:

In 2006, Washington State passed landmark legislation requiring that manufacturers of computers, monitors and TVs (containing contain toxic materials like lead, cadmium and mercury), provide recycling services free of charge to Washington residents, schools, small businesses, small governments, and charities. The new E-Cycle Washington program, launched in January 2009, collects approximately 2,200 computers, monitors and TVs each day, keeping these products from being dumped, landfi lled, or sent to disreputable recyclers

A voluntary product take-back program in the United States is (formerly the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation), Call2Recycle, which represents manufacturers of rechargeable batteries and devices that use rechargeable batteries. Each member pays a fee to operate a collection and recycling system. The collection of batteries and cell phones is free to consumers.

The Thermostat Recycling Corporation, operates in similar fashion, but supports the collection of mercury-containing thermostats.

Unwanted or unusable pharmaceuticals are collected in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

Caterpillar takes back diesel engines and remanufactures.


Green Purchasing Programs

Green purchasing (aka green procurement, or environmentally preferred procurement - EPP) includes procurement policies, standards, sometimes laws, and/or other measures or preferences that specify environmentally preferable products and services. Businesses, governments, organizations, and consumers can use their purchasing power to leverage supplier practices, products, and decisions, for better environmental protection. By specifying preferences for products that have less environmental impact, organizations can spur manufacturers to develop energy- and water-efficient products, recycled-content components, or low-toxicity alternatives, and/or use design for environment programs and minimize waste and emissions associated with manufacture and use of the product. The PPRC offers this checklist with programmatic steps to implement or enhance a green purchasing program.

Green Purchasing Examples:

Purchases of recycled-content paper by King County, Washington, agencies grew from 8% in 1989 to 94% in 1998, after the County adopted federal guidelines for minimum recycled-content. King County has an innovative, and award winning environmental purchasing program. In 2008, King County agencies purchased 54 million dollars worth of environmentally preferrable goods, saving $837,000 compared to the cost of conventional products and services. More...

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), the first U.S. voluntary performance standard in place for institutional purchasers looking to procure computers. EPEAT is subsequently developing standards for imaging equipment.

Product or Ingredient Bans

This regulatory approach prohibits the sale or distribution of products that are believed to have harmful environmental impacts that outweigh any advantages of the product. As examples in packaging - the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste limits concentration levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in packaging. The "Green Dot" compliance system harmonized national European laws concerning the management of packaging waste - to minimize the generation of packaging waste in the first place through educational and fee-based recovery programs. Another example is companies that mandate suppliers not use certain chemicals or materials in products the company purchases from the supplier.

Product Certification Schemes and Eco-Labeling

These are certification programs in which a product, process, or management system is certified to meet specific environmental criteria as established by an assessment body. Manufacturers wishing to achieve certification to an eco-label program may enjoy marketing advantages because the certification positively differentiates their products as environmentally sound. Eco-labeling programs have influenced product design in the areas of life-cycle impact, durability, hazards, recyclability, and more.

There are numerous certifications, accreditations, and seals of approval -making it hard to tell what is what, which programs are truly rigorous and involve enough stakeholders, scientists, toxicologists, etc., to create meaningful standards and certify product inspectors. In addition, there has been much ado about greenwashing - and validating environmental claims in consumer markets. The Seven Sins of Greenwashing provides useful perspective on this issue.


Two leading examples of rigorous product certification programs are GreenSeal (covering many different types of products), and the Master Painters Institute (MPI) Green Performance Standard for paints and coatings - covering volatiles, chemical components, and performance. The MPI has also worked with GreenSeal to develop a standard for recycled content paint. Another example, in Sweden, is the nation's leading supermarket chain which required its laundry detergent and home cleaning product suppliers to qualify for an eco-label or face loss of shelf space. In response, major companies such as Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Johnson Wax have reformulated their products.

With the recent concern of greenhouse gas emissions, there are efforts to include embodied energy in the manufacture, use, and disposal of goods. The PAS 2050 standard from the British Standards Institute offers a methodology and verification scheme for determining and publicizing the greenhouse gas impacts of a manufactured product or a service.

Also see U.S. EPA's Design for Environment screening tools (described below).

Designing for the Environment (DfE)

Product stewardship links product design with life cycle impacts - so that producers take product manufacture, use, and end‐of‐life impacts into account during the design phase. The life stages of a product start with the extraction of resources for raw material inputs, move to manufacturing, distribution, use, and end with disposal of the product and packaging at end of life. Design criteria favoring reduced environmental impact, considers the impacts of a product and the process used to make that product, including components and raw materials. A few examples of DfE considerations may include reduced toxics, reduced water and materials to manufacture,, recyclable, recycled content, lighter weight, more durable/longer life, reduced or eliminated packaging, and less greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacture and use.


South Korea has passed a comprehensive set of design criteria defining allowable empty space ratios in packaging and limiting the number of layers of packaging for specific product categories.

After integrating DfE into the re-design of one medical product and its coating process, Medtronic was able to achieve a 75% reduction in chemical use and wastewater loading and an expected 30% reduction in material use. This case study discusses the efforts in product design, the challenges, and the results,

The US EPA's DfE program assists manufacturers in designing a safe product, and helps consumers evaluate the environmental and human health safety of a product. This program has developed a general screening tool, as well as specific tools for fragrances, some solvents, surfactants, and chemicals. This initiative is also a sponsor of Cleangredients, an online database of institutional and industrial (I&I) cleaning product ingredient chemicals, providing verified information about the environmental and human health attributes of listed ingredients. This DfE effort helps formulators identify better ingredients, and helps suppliers showcase better ingredients.


Leasing and Servicizing

Servicizing refers to selling a service or function rather than a product, and can include operating leases and trade-ins. Actual ownership of the product remains with the supplier, and customers pay for use and maintenance. Some servicizing examples include carpet leasing, office equipment leasing, outsourcing of onsite chemical management, and office furniture supply, maintenance and moving services.

There are significant benefits for the environment, sellers and customers, if a servicizing program is designed and implemented well. The customer benefits include:

  • Environmental and cost savings without much effort on customer's behalf
  • Allows customer to focus on their primary areas of business
  • Maintenance and ultimate disposal is the supplier's responsibility
  • Product(s) are managed by the supplier, who best knows the product, liabilities, and waste reduction opportunities
  • Optional shared savings incentivizes both customer and supplier to reduce and recycle. Proving products meet certain codes or policy is a good way to establish market niche
  • Servicizing can help companies meet certain environmental goals
  • In servicizing relationships, the vendor may function as much as a partner, problem-solver, and information resource as the product provider

Servicizing inherently provides incentives to maximize and recapture the end-of-life value of products and equipment. The PPRC offers a checklist of activities to consider for implementing a servicizing program.

Servicizing Example:

Gage manufactures specialized chemical solvent blends for automotive paint applications and found they needed to take an active role in the management of customers’ paint shop operations. They began to consult on color changes, adoption of new application equipment or the use of specialty paint blends. Gage then introduced a more environment-friendly cleaned paint circulation material - which allowed Gage to take even greater responsibility for ensuring their proper and more efficient use, with an ultimate reduction in cleaning solvents sold. (Customers benefit from the services, buying less material, and reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) releases).

Deposit-Refund Programs

These programs impose a tax on product sales that is often used to cover the cost of recycling. The most familiar deposit-refund systems are "bottle bills" in the United States. These laws typically require customers to pay a bottle deposit upon purchase of the product, then require beverage retailers to pay consumers the specified refund value for returning empty containers. Or, the law may skip the consumer payment (upon purchase), but require wholesale distributors of the beverages to pay refunds to retailers, who in turn pay the consumer for returning the bottle. "Bottle bills" have very little impact on manufacturers, but instead affect retailers and distributors.


Oregon's Bottle Bill

Fees and Taxes
Assessments, sometimes referred to as "eco-taxes" or "eco-fees," charged to either manufacturers or consumers, the proceeds of which are often used to fund product recovery programs.


British Columbia's paint stewardship program is funded by "eco-fees." The fees, assessed at the point of sale, are effectively product price increases; however, they are shown as a separate line item on consumers' receipts.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Product Stewardship (Archived, No Longer Updated) Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Contact email: office@pprc.org

Hub Last Updated: 9/27/2012