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Extended Producer Responsibility Helps Curb Waste

In many ways, we live in a disposable society.
In many ways, we live in a disposable society. We buy items and when they wear out or break, we throw out or recycle them.

This is an issue that Broome County has honed in on, hoping to get manufacturers to take more responsibility for their products as they age.

There are two key areas when it comes to the topic of dealing with worn out or broken products, many of which are likely buried up here at the sealed off portions of the Broome County Landfill.

The first is what is called extended producer responsibility which is where legislative or financial incentives are given to manufacturers to come up with product designs that are more environmentally friendly and are easier to handle when they reach the end of their usefulness.

The other is product stewardship, which looks at the impact products and packaging have on peoples health, safety and the environment.

There is a push nationwide, including in New York State, to get manufacturers to be more conscious about what happens to their products months or years down the road.

"With extended producer responsibility, it also forces the manufacturer to come up with a system that if you're going to come up with this item and residents are going to buy it then you have a way for how they can easily handle it at the end of their life, how it can be recycled. It puts that back on them, the cost even associated with developing a program and it helps to incentivize them with looking at alternatives," said materials recovery manager Debra Smith.

Often times, the manufacturers efforts are worked into a products price.

There is an electronics recycling program in Broome County and in New York State.

Other items that landfills have to deal with are bulky things like mattresses and old carpeting, and hazardous products like paints and items with mercury in them.

There is an effort to get companies to make more durable, easily recyclable products. Take carpet for example; some kinds are now actually made out of plastic bottles or are in squares, so smaller segments can be replaced instead of ripping out the floor covering of an entire room.

"In New York State's case, we really look at what other states are doing, especially when you look at Vermont and some of the other states that have more progressive product stewardship efforts, to see what they are doing and then use that to help us to move along our product stewardship in the state," said Smith.
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