S.F. Supervisors Push For State-Level Extended Producer Responsibility

S.F. Supervisors Push For State-Level Extended Producer Responsibility

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution calling for state-level legislation covering extended producer responsibility (EPR), the concept of making companies responsible for handing products, especially ones with hazardous content, at the end of their lives.

The Board is asking the state to enact legislation based on the Extended Producer Responsibility Framework being used by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. The Framework, adopted in January this year, currently covers voluntary EPR programs, and provides EPR principles, roles for all involved parties and a way to add programs for new products.

Voluntary EPR programs have grown in the business world, though in many companies they cover only specific products, can cost money for consumers and can include restrictions.

Epson takes back printers, scanners and other items. While it charges $10 per item to be recycled, the company gives a $5 coupon, good at the Epson Store, for each item sent in. Apple will recycle any iPod and cell phone for free, even paying the cost of shipping. The company also offers free recycling of monitors and computers of any type, but only when a customer purchase certain Apple computers or monitors.

Product takeback and disposal efforts are especially prevalent in the electronics industry. EPR efforts for items like computers and TVs keep toxics out of landfills and also give companies a stream of goods that can be recycled and turned into new products. HP, for example, has been making ink cartridges partially with recycled cartridges since 2005.

Part of the reason the San Francisco Board is pushing for EPR legislation is to move costs of product disposal from governments to companies. Instead of a city having to invest in waste management programs and educating people about what to do with certain items, that responsibility would shift to the products' makers.

In its resolution, the Board also called for incentivizing companies to develop products that are less toxic, less wasteful, more durable, repairable and easier to reuse, recycle or compost. Butte County and the city of San Juan Capistrano have adopted similar resolutions, and the National Association of Counties adopted a policy supporting the framework approach to EPR in mid-2008.