What is Product Stewardship?
Three leading organizations in the product stewardship field (the Product Stewardship Institute, the Product Policy Institute and the Californica Product Stewardship Council), with input from stakeholders from business, government, and public interest organizations across North America, adopted the following definitions in 2012:
Product Stewardship – Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing health, safety, environmental and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages. The producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers, retailers, and consumers, also play a role. Stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law.
Extended Producer Responsibility – Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a mandatory type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the requirement that the producer’s responsibility for their product extends to post-consumer management of that product and its packaging. There are two related features of EPR policy: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.
What are some of the benefits of Product Stewardship?
- Encourages manufacturers to “think green” by redesigning their product
- Takes some of the financial burden off local governments for disposal
- Helps to reduce waste
- Builds a positive relationship between the consumer and the manufacturer
- Promotes environmentally sustainable methods of waste disposal
How might Product Stewardship apply to pharmaceutical waste?
Product stewardship legislation may mandate that producers, along with other stakeholders, share the financial responsibility for the environmental impact of their product. This may inspire manufacturers to redesign their products and packaging to decrease the amount of waste produced. Through better product design and responsible business practice, product stewardship may help decrease the overall amount of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Product stewardship may also encourage healthcare providers to examine how they dispense and prescribe medications that often end up as waste.
Is government regulation necessary to promote product stewardship?
It may be. For opinions on this question (pro and con), see the article entitled ”Why We Need Regulation for Fair and Effective Stewardship Programs and Why Voluntary Systems are not the Answer “ on the PSI Blog and the comments posted after it.