Producer Responsibility Laws – a coming trend?

29 Oct 2010

Producer responsibility or “take back” laws are the norm in Europe but are still fairly limited here.  These laws require producers or retailers of products to take them back at the end of their useful lives with the intention of recycling them.  Michigan has such a law regarding electronics, MCL 324. 17309 et seq. which was enacted a couple of years ago, and of course there is Michigan’s famous “bottle bill” which was an early forerunner of the concept.  

There has been a trend in recent years of introduction and enactment in many states of laws relating to other products.  Reportedly, 32 states have some law requiring the take back of one or more product categories.  The most recent are California’s laws to require the recycling of carpet and paint.  While paint has been banned from landfills in California for sometime, apparently, that was not keeping it out of the landfills.

Here in Michigan, the law prohibits the landfill disposal of certain types of: 1. Medical waste; 2. Used beverage containers; 3. Whole tires; 4. Clean yard clippings; 5. Used oil; 6. Lead acid batteries; 7.  Low-level radioactive waste (which may include ionizing smoke detectors); 8. Regulated hazardous waste; 9. Bulk or noncontainerized liquid waste; 10. Sewage; 11. PCBs; and 12. Asbestos waste. As in California, just because the law prohibits it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

There has been much debate about expanding the bottle bill; whether Michigan will follow California’s lead on carpets and paint remains to be seen but there are currently no such bills pending in the Michigan Legislature.

Leave a Comment to “Producer Responsibility Laws – a coming trend?”

  1. Scott Cassel 30. Oct, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Whether Michigan hops on the producer responsibility train is up to local governments, the MI DEQ, recyclers, and others that want to see a sustainable future for managing waste in the state. The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) tracks producer responsibility legislation on a daily basis on its home page ( There are over 60 laws in 32 states covering eight products. There are many opportunities for Michigan (e.g., mercury thermostats, fluorescent lamps, used oil, etc.), and PSI is hoping to find the small amount of funding it needs to assist the wide range of Michigan stakeholders that are already active and interested in the issue. There are many ways for producer responsibility laws to be enacted, and they do require performance metrics and accountability measures so that real results occur. As you point out in your blog post, laws do not necessarily translate into results. But they can, if constructed right. Michigan is poised for movement on producer responsibility in the coming years, and we hope to assist in finding the way to make it work in the state.

  2. Kerrin O'Brien 02. Nov, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Extended producer responsibility is the central tenet of product stewardship and sends the proper market signals back upstream to impact the design and production of a product. In these tough economic times distributing the financial burden of disposal across the lifecycle of a product is important to ensuring proper disposal. Impacting the design of products to reduce waste or increase recyclability in the first place is key. Product stewardship has legs all over the country and tremendous potential to move Michigan closer to it’s waste diversion goals.

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