So all of this data about plastic waste should raise the question of how can we manage our plastic supply more effectively, not only at the end of its useful life, but throughout the entire value chain. This brings us to the topic of product stewardship. So what is product stewardship? Product stewardship is defined as the act of minimizing the health, safety, environmental, and social impacts of a product and its packaging throughout the product lifecycle, while also maximizing economic benefits. Those who manufacture products are arguably going to be having the greatest ability to minimize adverse impact from a product throughout its lifecycle. Other stakeholders, however, including suppliers, retailers, and consumers, are going to have a role to play in product stewardship. So what do I mean by the lifecycle of a product? There are really two different models that we can think about in terms of a product's lifecycle. One is the old fashioned way of thinking, cradle-to-grave, and the other is a more modern way of thinking, cradle-to-cradle. So let's start with cradle-to-grave. Cradle-to-grave has an implicit assumption that a product goes through a linear system. The linear system begins when the product is first made and ends when the product is disposed of. The idea in a cradle-to-grave system might be to prevent pollution by regulating the use of the product, how it's transported, how it's stored, and how it's disposed of. One example of this phenomenon is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act known as RCRA. This is a federal law that governs the generation, transportation, and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes. But it presumes a cradle-to-grave system in which the materials in the end are disposed of. A second example of cradle-to-grave thinking is in the Superfund Statute, CERCLA. This statute provides for the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites. So again, it's a very important thing to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites. But the cradle-to-grave model assumes that there are going to be disposals of hazardous wastes and other materials. In contrast, if we think about a cradle-to-cradle system, another way of thinking about this is as a circular system or a circular economy. In a circular system, a cradle-to-cradle system manufacturers rely on design and production principles to make products truly recyclable or reusable before the end of their useful life or at its end. The idea is that a product should be recyclable or returned to the earth safely. So some materials can be returned to the earth safely. They naturally biodegrade. Certain fibers or bio plastics, those can be returned to an ecological system. Other materials can be recycled or upcycled. These include metals, certain types of plastic. And they can remain in a kind of closed or circular system where when their use in one product ends, they can be transformed into a feedstock for another product. One final aspect of the idea of a circular economy is that we're not only thinking about the product itself, we also need to be thinking about the water and energy that are used during manufacturing of the product, as well as during its recycling. So, what is product stewardship? There are four primary sets of entities or organizations that have a role to play in product stewardship, manufacturers, retailers, state and local government, and the federal government. There are, of course others, but I would say that these are the four primary ones. So what role do manufacturers play? In a circular economy, from a perspective of product stewardship, manufacturers need to rethink the design of their products. And rethink their relationship throughout the value chain, both upstream from their suppliers and downstream to their ultimate customer. Arguably, this represents a substantial business opportunity for manufacturers to innovate. Manufacturers can establish a competitive advantage and ultimately increased wealth and value for their shareholders by maximizing resource productivity. This can reduce costs and foster innovation. So this may involve using fewer toxic substances or designing products to be more easily reusable or recyclable. As well as having take back programs for products at the end of their useful life. This is a way for firms to demonstrate good corporate citizenship in addition to thinking about the environment. What about retailers? Retailers purchase products from the manufacturers to sell in their stores. Retailers can play an incredibly significant role by preferring product providers who are more environmentally friendly. One clear example of this is Walmart, which engaged in an early initiative to green its supply chain by requiring manufacturers who wanted to sell in Walmart stores to reduce their packaging. Why was this good for Walmart? Not only was this good for the environment, by reducing the amount of plastic packaging and plastic waste ultimately generated. But also this led to fewer truck trips because with less packaging, more items can be put into a single truck. And so this reduced shipping costs and created greater efficiency. A second role that retailers can play is to educate consumers. Manufacturers may not have a direct relationship with consumers, but retailers do. Consumers go into retail stores or shop on websites, and so retailers have that relationship with the customers. Retailers may be able to play a role to educate consumers on how to choose products that are better for the environment. And finally, retailers can rely upon that relationship with consumers to create programs that allow customers or consumers to return products to them for recycling or take back. So, in addition to manufacturers and retailers, governments at different levels have an important role to play in product stewardship. At the state and local level, state and local governments are largely the ones responsible for managing municipal solid waste. They can undertake cooperative efforts with manufacturers and retailers and others within the value chain to promote a circular economy. They can also impose mandates, such as a take back mandate for specific products like electronics, plastics, or bottles, right? Many of you may have grown up in states that have can and bottle refund programs. These are examples of take back programs. State and local governments can also create rules that would provide incentives for product stewardship innovation. And can work with neighboring states to maximize the cost effectiveness of these programs. At the federal government level, there is likely limited statutory authority to control the environmental impact of products in the form of product stewardship. Though of course the federal government does have the ability to say that certain types of toxic chemicals can't be used. Ordinary plastics in the absence of toxicity are much harder to regulate in this way. So the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal EPA has more voluntary product stewardship programs that facilitate coordination and collaboration among states, local governments, industry, and NGO, to prefer certain types of safer cleaning products, among other things. And the federal government is a major purchaser. Just in the same way that Walmart can choose to prefer the purchase of more environmentally friendly products. The federal government can also use its purchasing or procurement power to incentivize better product stewardship. One example of this, not necessarily in the plastics context, recent announcements that the federal government plans to purchase only electric vehicles for its federal fleets. What confirms due to promote a circular economy? Well, one example would be something like recycling or upcycling. So used plastic bottles can be turned into fleece for clothing. One company called Rubicon, which works with independent waste haulers and engages in evaluations of the waste stream of its partner companies recommended that a supermarket not discard its butcher aprons once they had been used. Instead they were cleaned and turned into the film material for dog beds. So these are just two examples, but they provide examples of ways in which we can think creatively about how to reuse or recycle products rather than simply disposing of them. So what is the difference between product stewardship and extended producer responsibility? Product stewardship, at least as I've been talking about it, is often voluntary. It could be mandatory, but product stewardship is something that firms can do on a voluntary basis. Extended producer responsibility or EPR, in contrast is generally understood as a form of mandatory product stewardship. So this is a situation in which federal government, state government, or local government imposes a duty on the manufacturer of a product or on other entities within the value chain to engage in specified forms of product stewardship. The idea behind EPR, extended producer responsibility is that it shifts the burden from focusing on waste and disposal by the public sector, right? Municipal landfills. And instead puts the burden on manufacturers and designers of products and packaging by the private sector to reduce waste or take it back. EPR can include incentives for manufacturers to address environmental concerns, not only bans or other prescriptive rules.