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Extending Producer Responsibility: An Evaluation Framework for Product Take-Back Policies


  • Michael W. Toffel

    () (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)

  • Antoinette Stein

    () (State of California Department of General Services Procurement Division)

  • Katharine L. Lee

    () (Harvard Business School)


Manufacturers are increasingly being required to adhere to product take-back regulations that require them to manage their products at the end of life. Such regulations seek to internalize products' entire life cycle costs into market prices, with the ultimate objective of reducing their environmental burden. This article provides a framework to evaluate the potential for take-back regulations to actually lead to reduced environmental impacts and to stimulate product design changes. It describes trade-offs associated with several major policy decisions, including whether to hold firms physically or financially responsible for the recovery of their products, when to impose recycling fees, whether to include disposal and hazardous substance bans, and whether to mandate product design features to foster reuse and recycling of components and materials. The framework also addresses policy elements that can significantly affect the cost efficiency and occupational safety hazards of end-of-life product recovery operations. The evaluation framework is illustrated with examples drawn from take-back regulations promulgated in Europe, Japan, and the United States governing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Suggested Citation

  • Michael W. Toffel & Antoinette Stein & Katharine L. Lee, 2008. "Extending Producer Responsibility: An Evaluation Framework for Product Take-Back Policies," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-026, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frota Neto, J. Quariguasi & Bloemhof-Ruwaard, J.M. & van Nunen, J.A.E.E. & van Heck, E., 2008. "Designing and evaluating sustainable logistics networks," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(2), pages 195-208, February.
    2. Pagell, Mark & Wu, Zhaohui & Murthy, Nagesh N., 2007. "The supply chain implications of recycling," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 133-143.
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