Extended Product Responsibility: An Economic Assessment of Alternative Policies
Extended Product Responsibility embodies the notion that agents along a product chain should share responsibility for the life-cycle environmental impacts of the product, including those associated with ultimate disposal. Extended Producer Responsibility is a narrower concept which places responsibility on producers and focuses primarily on post-consumer waste disposal. Manufacturer "take-back" requirements are the policy lever most often associated with Extended Producer Responsibility. In this paper, the authors discuss alternative incentive-based policies that are consistent with the objectives of Extended Product and Producer Responsibility. They argue that an upstream combined product tax and recycling subsidy (UCTS) is generally more cost-effective and imposes fewer transactions costs than the take-back approach. They also consider the strengths and weaknesses of a policy not targeted at producers: unit-based pricing of residential waste collection and disposal. The authors find that this option shows potential for achieving non-trivial reductions in solid waste. Widespread application in the U.S. of a $1.00 charge per 32-gallon bag could reduce total municipal solid waste disposed by approximately 13 percent per year.
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