Product Stewardship, also known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), supports the collection and recycling of end-of-life products. In Alaska, these activities are currently performed on a voluntary basis by an individual, local government, nonprofit, or business.

Product Stewardship extends a producer’s financial and managerial responsibility for its products beyond the manufacturing stage to the post-consumer collection, recycling, and safe disposal. While the concept is new to Alaska, manufacturers are already familiar with it – they currently help to fund collection and recycling of 15 products in 33 other states plus Washington, D.C..

Product stewardship ends the cycle of waste because manufacturers have a vested interest in making more durable products with more recyclable components. The financial 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 consumer in the U.S. or even world. In fact, when you purchase a computer you are helping to pay for the 25 other states’ electronics product stewardship programs. Why not have them pay for ours?

Proposed Products

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.

SWAT’s Advocacy for Alaska

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.

We have engaged a variety of people and organizations in the discussion to develop this program. They represent nonprofits, native nonprofits, tribes, multiple industries, and local and state governments. 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.

The global pandemic caused a pause in our work, but we’re back on track. Starting in 2021, SWAT engaged the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) to help guide our next steps. We formed the Electronics Stewardship Committee to build on the 2018 framework to create a policy model for Alaska. Once complete, we will hold a workshop to educate additional stakeholders and receive feedback on the model. Over the course of 2022, we will build a coalition of supporters to join in our advocacy movement.

How Can You Become Involved?

SWAT welcomes those who would like to participate in our work to develop a Product Stewardship Program for Alaska. Please contact us at for more information or to be included in future updates as we build our coalition of supporters.