Product Stewardship shares the responsibility of collection and recycling with the manufacturer under a defined financing mechanism to support the program’s activities. While the concept is new to Alaska, manufacturers are already familiar with it – they currently help to fund collection and recycling in 27 other states.
Since 2017, SWAT has been working to develop a product stewardship program, beginning with a trip to British Columbia, Canada to see how they operate their well-established program. BC has many similarities to Alaska, and includes both metropolitan areas and small, remote communities. The trip made an impact – product stewardship can be tailored to whatever circumstances and needs there are. Following the trip we began contacting other states and organizations that have successfully operated programs to get their advice.
In 2018, we sponsored a presentation and half-day summit with regional entities, municipal governments, and the recycling Industry to learn more about product stewardship and identify barriers to an Alaskan infrastructure. We also held a series of webinars and meetings to begin crafting an Alaska product stewardship framework. In October 2018, we held a summit to draft the framework and identify more precisely Alaska specific logistics and outreach challenges.
Electronics are the proposed products for Alaska’s program. These products contain hazardous chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, and flame retardants that, if not managed properly, can cause substantial and permanent harm to human health and the environment. They are widely used by individuals, businesses, and even our schools; and the volume of waste produced each year is only growing, in part due to the short-life design of such products, and to their increasing integration into nearly every facet of daily human activities.
There are few recycling opportunities for electronics in Alaska because there are no processing facilities located here. While urban residents have some opportunities for electronic drop-off, their cost and inconvenience dissuades many families from using them. And in our remote communities, shipping costs alone can be cost-prohibitive. With rural landfills unlined, these communities face higher health and environment costs. But all Alaskans pay in the end. Not only can the water that sustains our fisheries be polluted, our municipal governments bear the cost of disposal – whether landfilled or recycled– at a time of tightened local and state budgets. Taxpayers foot the bill and our children inherit contaminated land.
Product stewardship ends the cycle of waste because manufacturers have a vested interest in making more durable products with more recyclable components. The cost? It is most often embedded in the retail cost of the product worldwide. That means our high disposal costs are spread out among every product user in the U.S. or even world. In fact, when you purchase a computer you are helping to pay for New York’s – and 24 other state’s– disposal costs. Why not have them pay for ours?
In 2019, the Framework was drafted, which you can access here. This self-financing program will benefit all Alaskans by creating jobs, reducing municipal government expenses, and helping to protect human health and the environment.
How Can You Become Involved?
A variety of people and organizations are involved in the discussion to develop this program. They represent nonprofits, native nonprofits, tribes, industry, and local and state governments. Through a series of in-person meetings, teleconferences, and webinars, we have determined this program is feasible and will provide benefits to all Alaskans.
SWAT welcomes those who would like to participate in our work to develop a Product Stewardship program. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
SWAT Resources for Developing an Alaska Product Stewardship Program
See this webinar for an overview of Product Stewardship: Product Stewardship Introductory Webinar
Presentation file of an overview of Product Stewardship: Product Stewardship Introductory Presentation