Extended Producer Responsibility
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy that requires manufacturers to accept responsibility for all stages in a product’s lifecycle, including “end-of-life” management when people discard it. INFORM focuses primarily on discarded electronic products (referred to as electronic waste or e-waste).
In its broadest sense, e-waste is defined as any device that contains a printed circuit board, which includes televisions, computers, printers, cell phones, digital music players, radios, and DVD players.
EPR policies generally require manufacturers to fund the collection, recycling, or safe disposal of discarded electronic products. EPR policies for electronics are important because the number of devices available on the market is growing rapidly, these devices can be hazardous when mishandled, and they have a significant impact on the environment when resources are extracted to manufacture them.
Also, the components in these devices can contain various toxic substances such as cadmium, lead, mercury, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Exposure to these substances can cause a range of health effects from kidney damage to impaired development of the central nervous system. In general, electronic products are safe when used as intended; however, they can pose problems if not managed properly when discarded.
Workers in recycling facilities can be exposed to toxic constituents if precautions are not taken to reduce exposure. Sometimes, the discarded products can end up in countries such as China, India, or Nigeria, where the rudimentary methods used to extract valuable materials from electronics can threaten the health of workers and communities.
Also, if these devices are disposed in landfills or sent to incinerators, the toxic substances contained in their components can escape into the environment.
By making manufacturers responsible for e-waste, EPR encourages them to reduce the volume of toxic substances contained in components and to redesign electronic products so they can be easily disassembled for reuse or recycling. EPR’s emphasis on reuse and recycling also helps conserve natural resources.