What is extended producer responsibility (EPR)?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), also known as Product Stewardship, is a strategy to place a shared responsibility for end-of-life product management on the producers, and all entities involved in the product chain, instead of the general public; while encouraging product design changes that minimize a negative impact on human health and the environment at every stage of the product's lifecycle. This allows the costs of treatment and disposal to be incorporated into the total cost of a product. It places primary responsibility on the producer, or brand owner, who makes design and marketing decisions. It also creates a setting for markets to emerge that truly reflect the environmental impacts of a product, and to which producers and consumers respond.

Source:  CalRecycle

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PRODUCTS

 

BATTERIES

 

The Problem

Studies show that people store used, dead, or corroded batteries because they inherently know they have value and should not be thrown in the trash. Some states, including California, have banned batteries from trash disposal. It’s time to provide consumers with a convenient way to recycle those batteries and put that valuable resource back into the economic mainstream, creating jobs in the process. Like most used products, batteries should be seen as a commodity and a business opportunity, not waste!

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s 2002 report Household Universal Waste Generation in California, more than 500 million batteries were sold in California in 2001. Only 0.55% of these were recycled through city and county household hazardous waste programs and at a significant cost to ratepayers and taxpayers; costs were estimated to exceed $31 million per year!

Supporting Battery Stewardship

In this video, Assembly Member Das Williams explains the problems associated with battery disposal and discusses his 2014 legislation, AB 2284, which would have established a statewide stewardship program for household batteries.

Taking Action

In 2018, Assemblymember Bloom sent three letters regarding Lithium Ion batteries in consumer products. One letter to CalRecycle, one to CalFire, and one to Department to Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), each addressing the health and safety hazards associated with mishandling of lithium ion batteries.

In 2013, 27 environmental organizations asked battery and lamp manufacturers to form a partnership to establish much needed take-back programs for their products:

 

In 2011, CPSC was the primary grant partner on the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments’ (SGVCG) pilot project to demonstrate how battery manufacturers can design a statewide stewardship program that provides convenient battery collection locations. The project found that 59 percent of Californians surveyed were aware of the disposal ban on batteries – but 56 percent still threw them in the trash.

Corporate Stewardship

Power by Go Green

Power by Go Green (formerly PerfPower Corporation) is a technology company offering sustainable products, including batteries, flashlights, and extension cords/surge protectors. Their GoGreen Alkaline Batteries are made of recycled materials and can be recycled free-of-charge using the company’s iRecycled program. They are also free of toxic lead, cadmium, or mercury.

Call2Recycle Battery Stewardship Program

Call2Recycle is North America’s first and largest battery stewardship program that collects and recycles rechargeables free-of-charge in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1996, Call2Recycle has diverted more than 100 million pounds of rechargeable batteries and cell phones from landfills. Click Here to Update your Safety Training.

 

Articles & Press

 

Studies

 

Links

Mythbusters Jr. show illustrates the danger of putting batteries into our wastestream:

 

 

CARPET

The Problem

According to California’s 2014 Waste Characterization Study, over 570,000 tons of carpet was discarded in California. It is bulky and difficult to manage, and has the fourth largest greenhouse gas footprint of any product waste in California. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, every year 4 billion pounds of carpet are discarded in the U.S. and only about 1 percent is recycled.

 

Carpet Stewardship – California is the First in the World

In 2010, CPSC worked with carpet manufacturers, recyclers, the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), and Assembly Speaker John Perez to pass the first product stewardship legislation to support the recycling of waste carpet, AB 2398. This legislation was not entirely successful, so warranted a new bill, AB 1158 sponsored by our national affiliate the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC), to fix some issues. AB 1158 was signed by Governor Brown on October 14th, 2017. in 2019, NSAC sponsored a third bill amending the California carpet stewardship program, AB 729 (Chu). This legislation that paves the way for the state to reclaim over $15 million in carpet recycling fees used to support California carpet collection and recycling businesses, protecting its recycling infrastructure from the carpet recycling program administrator, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which is headquartered in Georgia. The bill added the requirement that differential assessments take into account the financial burden that a particular carpet material has on the stewardship program, and the amount of post-consumer recycled content contained in a particular carpet.

 

California Carpet Stewardship Advisory Committee (AC)

 

Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE)

CARE is a joint industry-government effort to increase the amount of recycling and reuse of post-consumer carpet. CARE administers the California Carpet Stewardship Program, which is charged with meeting the requirements for carpet recycling set by AB 2398 and managed by CalRecycle. CARE works to advance market-based solutions that increase landfill diversion and recycling of post-consumer carpet, encourage design for recyclability and meet meaningful goals. However, CARE’s 2017-2021 California Carpet Stewardship Program has been rejected by CalRecycle many times for not meeting statutory requirements, resulting in over $3 million in fines, which cannot be paid with consumer money, as required by AB 1158.

However, CARE has not been making significant progress to increase recycling and CalRecycle has submitted an accusation and a possible fine of over $3 million for failure to meet the legislated standard of continuous and meaningful improvement. On December 19, 2017, CalRecycle concluded that CARE’s Annual Report for 2016 failed to demonstrate compliance with the carpet law, even after the Department found CARE non-compliant in 2014, 2015, and had requested CARE to implement changes. In February, 2018, CalRecycle agreed to lower civil penalties against CARE from  $3.2 million to $1 million, but found CARE out of compliance again for the 2016 Annual Report for an additional $1.8 million in penalties. In June 2018, CalRecycle decided to delay enforcement of non-compliance for CARE until the decision is made regarding their final submission of the Carpet Stewardship Plan 2018-2022 in order to allow public consideration of the revised Plan.

Recycled Carpet Products and Market Development

There are many products on the market that use recycled carpet materials in their production. Here are some examples of companies leading the market in creating products that improve the market for carpet recycling.

 

Aquafil manufactures nylon from post-consumer recycled materials in their Eco-nyl product, used in many eco-fashion oriented products

 

DSM-Niaga creates fully recyclable carpet using their new glue technology

 

Interface Carpet manufacturers incorporate sustainability into their business and product design for carpet

 

Fiberon Composite decking uses post-consumer wood and plastic in their production process

 

Also:

 

San Francisco Carpet Procurement Standards

San Francisco Department of the Environment adopted new sustainable carpet purchasing requirements into regulation that are among the strictest in the nation.  It limits City purchases to certain, recycled, commercial, hard-backed carpet tiles because they allow for easy replacement and minimize waste.

 

Highlights of the regulation include a ban on these toxic chemicals in carpet tiles and broadloom (rolled) carpet:

  • Antimicrobial chemicals because they can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics and disrupt our hormones.  It is not necessary for city department carpet to have antimicrobial chemicals.

  • Flame retardant chemicals because they do little, if anything, to slow or prevent fire. They migrate out of products and escape into our air, dust and our bodies. And they’re associated with cancerlower intelligence quotient (IQ), and reproductive harm.

  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) because they are associated with cancer, high cholesterol and obesity.   So San Francisco’s regulation requires carpets to have cationic nylon yarn.  It is soil stain resistant and does not require toxic fluorinated chemicals.

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) because it usually has phthalates (some of which disrupt our hormones and probably causes cancer), and sometimes it has lead (which can cause reproductive problems and nerve disorders), and when PVC is made or disposed, it releases cancer-causing dioxins.

 

To learn more, watch this webinar on the San Francisco carpet procurement standards.

Articles & Press

 

Studies

 

Links

 

 

FLUORESCENT LAMPS

The Problem

Fluorescent lamps consume less electricity than conventional bulbs; however, mercury is the key element that makes them so efficient. Mercury is a toxin which can harm the nervous system, kidneys and liver. Today, only two percent of CFLs are recycled in the U.S., and millions of lamps are discarded. Most are crushed en route to landfills and incinerators, releasing mercury vapors that are inhaled by workers. Mercury residue in landfills forms methyl mercury gas, which is especially toxic.

 

Supporting Fluorescent Lamp Stewardship

In a grant project with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), CPSC learned that nearly 50% of consumers and retailers were unaware of California’s mercury lamp disposal ban. Most consumers were unaware that the fluorescent lamps were hazardous, unaware of how to dispose of them properly, and they threw them in the trash out of convenience.

Articles & Press

 

Studies

 

Links

Not sure where to recycle your CFLs? Click here to find a location near you.

 

 

 

GAS CYLINDERS

 

The Problem

One pound disposable propane gas cylinders (cylinders) power equipment used for camping, cooking, landscaping, heating, and a variety of other applications. There are 30 million cylinders sold in the U.S. each year and an estimate over four million in California alone. Once used, consumers must dispose of these cylinders and often improperly and at significant cost to local governments and parks. When consumers purchase a cylinder, 80 percent of the cost is actually for the cylinder (which is the packaging) and 20 percent is for the gas.

 

Cylinders are difficult to recycle and once discarded cannot be presumed to be empty. Even a small amount of propane gas under pressure is dangerous and presents a risk to sanitation workers.  Typically “empty cylinders” are not allowed in mixed recycling bins and are collected separately at parks, household hazardous waste facilities, and transfer stations and shipped for processing to a facility that handles cylinder evacuation. Very rarely, as in the case of Santa Cruz County, a cylinder that is completely empty can be placed in the curbside mixed recycling cart so it is important to check with your local waste hauler for direction. It is expensive to remove remaining gas and ensure metals are recycled and costs about $1.25 to recycle each cylinder when they cost around $4.50 to buy one.

 

Refilling disposable one pound cylinders is illegal. On November 28, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a safety alert, “Prohibited Refilling of DOT 39 Specification Cylinders” regarding refilling disposable cylinders. The alert strongly recommends that the general public not refill DOT 39 cylinders, and outlines fines. Additional information on California and Federal laws and regulations pertaining to the refill of disposable cylinders can be found here.

Disposable Cylinder Facts

  • In 2014, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park spent $2,656 and shipped 2,125 cylinders for proper handling and recycling.

  • According to the City of Sunnyvale between 2010 – 2013 more than 16,000 cylinders were processed through the SMaRT Station (where the trash for Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto is processed before being landfilled), at a cost of over $144,000 to the cities for their proper disposal. SMaRT Station Gas Cylinder Fact Sheet.

 

Supporting Cylinder Stewardship

Click here for the ReFuel Your Fun website. Follow the ReFuel Your Fun Facebook page.

There is one manufacturer that redesigned the valves and now offer refillable one pound cylinders: Flame King. In addition, Kamps Propane stores are now selling and exchanging the Little Kamper refillable gas cylinders and Pick Up Propane locations will be exchanging the refillables beginning Spring 2015. These refillable cylinders save customers an average of $320 over their 12-year life span assuming a cylinder is reused 10 times a year either through refilling or an exchange program.

 

Please ask retailers in your community to sell or provide refill or exchange services. Click here for a sample letter.

Articles & Press

Shown below:  

Tailgater with the Little Kamper, Kamps Propane;

A little camper seen with the Little Kamper, Kamps Propane Website; and

Refillable one pound cylinders powering landscaping equipment.

 

 

 

GREEN CHEMISTRY

 

The Problem

Media headlines regularly reveal consumer products with suspected toxic substances. Tens of thousands of chemicals are in use today, but we know very little about how they affect people or the environment. Consumers and businesses in the supply chain lack basic information about ingredients and their effects, information which could lower the costs and liability arising from goods that contain toxic substances. This information gap prevents the free market from working properly to stimulate the innovation of safer, healthier substitutes. Issues include:

  • Uncertainty about the safety of chemicals in products which are manufactured around the world

  • Little or no information about chemical ingredients and potential hazards

  • Poorly conceived actions, like bans that do not consider alternatives and often create new problems when substitutions are made

  • Billions of dollars in state taxpayer costs for long-term stewardship of a burgeoning hazardous waste stream

  • More chemicals being used as our population grows and our economy expands, resulting in more products being consumed and more waste generated.

 

Supporting Green Chemistry

California was the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive “Green Chemistry” Initiative to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products and make it easy for consumers and businesses to identify the chemical contents of the products they buy.

Green Chemistry is a systematic scientific and engineering approach that seeks to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and the generation of toxic wastes by changing the way chemicals are designed, manufactured, and utilized. Rather than managing chemicals one by one through individual bans, the Green Chemistry Initiative establishes a “framework” approach by delegating the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) the ability to target the most dangerous and harmful chemicals for safer chemical substitutions and product take-back. CPSC supports this framework approach, as well as the EPR framework approach as adopted by CalRecycle in 2008, for product waste management. To date, authority to initiate the EPR framework approach has not yet been granted by the legislature.

The six recommendations developed through the California Green Chemistry Initiative in the 2008 Green Chemistry Initiative Final Report are:

1.  Expand Pollution Prevention and product stewardship programs to more business sectors to refocus additional resources on prevention rather than clean up.

2.  Develop Green Chemistry Workforce Education and Training, Research and Development and Technology Transfer through new and existing educational programs and partnerships.

3.  Create an Online Product Ingredient Network to disclose chemical ingredients for products sold in California, while protecting trade secrets.

4.  Create an Online Toxics Clearinghouse, an online database of chemical toxicity and hazards populated with the guidance of a Green Ribbon Science Panel to help prioritize chemicals of concern and data needs.

5.  Accelerate the Quest for Safer Products, creating a systematic, science-based process to evaluate chemicals of concern and alternatives to ensure product safety and reduce or eliminate the need for chemical-by-chemical bans.

6.  Move Toward a Cradle-to-Cradle Economy to leverage market forces to produce products that are “benign-by-design” in part by establishing a California Green Products Registry to develop green metrics and tools (e.g., environmental footprint calculators, sustainability indices) for a range of consumer products and encourage their use by businesses.

Video created by the CA DTSC and the U.S. EPA on the topic of green chemistry.

 

Policy & Legislation

California

Articles & Press

 

Resources & Links

 

 

 

MATTRESSES

The Problem

Mattresses are bulky and difficult to transport, and public access to inexpensive recycling opportunities is very limited, so illegal dumping of mattresses is a widespread problem. According to CalRecycle’s Mattress & Box Spring Case Study, an estimated 4.2 million mattresses and box springs are discarded annually in California, but less than 5 percent were being recycled at the time of the report.

 

Because of these issues, the City of Napa commissioned CPSC to do a white paper on mattress end-of-life management:

 

SB 254 – Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act

SB 254 (Hancock) was enacted in 2013 and aims to reduce illegal dumping, increase recycling, and substantially reduce public agency costs for the end-of-use management of used mattresses. The legislation requires industry to create a statewide recycling program to increase the recovery and recycling of mattresses at their end-of-use. The Program is administered by the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) and funded through a $10.50 recycling fee collected from consumers at point-of-sale when a mattress or box spring is purchased.

 

SB 1274 (Hancock) was passed in 2014 to provide additional clarity regarding definitions, report submittals, and record keeping requirements.

California Illegal Dumping Compensation Program for Mattresses and Box Springs

The MRC’s California Illegal Dumping Payment Program (IDPP) fund helps off-set costs associated with efforts to clean-up illegally dumped mattresses and box springs in California by providing qualifying urban and and rural local governments, participating permitted solid waste facilities and authorized solid waste operations payments for illegally dumped mattress and box springs collected from the public right-of-way. Visit the IDPP registration page or contact Mark Patti with MRC for more information.

 

Local Government Model Letter to Mattress Retailers on SB 254 Obligations

Rob D’Arcy with the County of Santa Clara developed a Model Letter for local governments to send to their mattress retailers ensuring they are aware of the law requiring they offer take-back or disposal and are complying with the 7/1/2014 deadline.  Please contact CPSC if you find local retailers that are not complying with the law.

 

MRC Audit

Christina Garcia (D- District 58) filed a request with the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to assess the oversight of the MRC by CalRecycle to ensure they are in compliance with the California Mattress Recycling Law. The Audit Committee approved the request (13 Ayes) and indicated the audit could be completed in as little as five months. The Audit report, published August 30 2018, suggested CalRecycle does not have enough oversight authority necessary to ensure that the mattress recycling program fulfills its purpose.

Articles & Press

 

Resources

 

Links

 

 

 

PACKAGING

The Problem

According to CalRecycle, one third of the 66 million tons of solid waste generated by Californians each year is packaging! For many products, packaging is certainly important, as it helps contain and preserve the product and protect it during the transport process. Even so, excessive packaging needs to be replaced with more lightweight, reusable packaging designs. Aside from being wasteful, packaging often ends up as litter, harming our environment and oceans.

 

Santa Monica Beach
On left: after storm drains were flushed by a major rain; on right: a normal day in Santa Monica.

Articles & Press

 

 

Studies

 

Links

 

 

 

PAINT

The Problem

Consumers buy much more paint than they need. The U.S. EPA estimates that 10% of paint sold becomes waste. It is the single largest waste stream managed by local government household hazardous waste (HHW) programs. In 2008 it cost California $27 million dollars to manage the nearly 2 million gallons of leftover paint that were disposed.

 

Supporting Paint Stewardship

As a result of five years of hard work led by the California Product Stewardship Council, California became the first state in the nation with a permanent paint stewardship program. CPSC worked closely with the American Coatings Association to lay the foundation for a producer financed, designed and managed post-consumer paint recovery system. In 2010, the Governor of California approved AB 1343. California’s Paint Stewardship Program, PaintCare now has over 800 collection sites throughout the state.

 Click Here to Read CPSC’s Comment Letter on PaintCare’s 5 year Annual Report 12/11/17

 

Articles & Press

 

Links

 

Resources

 

 

 

PHARMACEUTICALS

The Problem  

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services which publishes the National Health Expenditure Projections 2012-2022, approximately $275.9 billion in prescription drugs will be prescribed in the U.S in 2014. By 2020, that number is projected to reach $379.9 billion. A report estimated that 10 to 33 percent of prescribed medicines are not consumed. With a lack of safe and secure disposal options, consumers traditionally have had the option of trashing, flushing or storing these medicines in the home. For example, a City of Roseville telephone survey of residents conducted in January 2014 found that although 48% of respondents used responsible disposal methods, 30% still disposed through the household trash or toilet and 17% did not know how to get rid of unwanted medicines. Numerous studies have documented the widespread consequences of improperly stored and disposed medicines, including the impacts on water quality and public health.

 

To learn more about the problems caused by improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and other health products such as sharps, read CPSC’s “A Prescription for Change,” which appeared as an insert in the Sacramento News & Review in March 2014. A second “A Prescription for Change” for Marin County was published in December 2014, and the third “A Prescription for Change” insert for San Mateo County was published electronically in June 2015. Educational inserts were also published in Alameda County and Santa Clara County in Spring 2016. The inserts can be accessed by clicking on the corresponding link below.

 

The Solution – Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws requiring that pharmaceutical manufacturers manage their products’ waste at end-of-life have been implemented throughout the world. To comply with such legislation pharmaceutical manufacturers and others in the product chain will design, manage and fund take-back programs to securely collect unwanted medicines and sometimes their packaging from the public and ensure the collected materials are properly managed.

Pharmaceutical EPR Programs From Around the World​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • South America

    • Brazil – Descarte Consciente

    • Colombia – Punto Azul

      • Administered by Colombia’s National Association of Entrepreneurs (ANDI), the Punto Azul program began collecting medicines in 2010 with funding supplied by pharmaceutical manufacturers and importers. Collection is located at pharmacies and large supermarkets but is not mandatory. In 2014 there were over 685 locations nationally covering 43% of the population.

      • CPSC Program Fact Sheet

  • Other Resources

 

Pharmaceutical EPR in the United States

Following the lead of Canada, France, Spain, and others, local governments in the United States are beginning to implement pharmaceutical EPR laws through local ordinances since state legislation has not passed.

 

Alameda County, California

On July 24, 2012, Alameda County adopted the Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance. This ordinance is based on the program in British Columbia, operated by many of the same pharmaceutical companies doing business in the U.S. This precedent setting ordinance was the first in the nation to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the safe collection and disposal of unused medications from the public, starting with a challenge by the pharmaceutical industry in December of 2012 and two appeals which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court denying the request to hear the case on May 26, 2015.

Alameda Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance Timeline:

  • 1/26/18: Alameda County adopted proposed revisions to the 7/24/2012 Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance. Key changes in the revisions include:

    • Adds Over-the-Counter (OTC) medications to the covered items

    • Allows for collection of Controlled Substances at both law enforcement AND DEA registrants (Pharmacies and Hospitals)

    • Requires the stewardship organization to provide a kiosk to any DEA Registrant even if they have reached the 110 site goal originally stated

    • Minor changes to definitions to clarify ordinance, and make enforcement easier

  • 5/26/15: U.S. Supreme Court denies petitioners’ Writ of Certiorari (request to hear case)

  • 4/15/15: Alameda responds to Supreme Court questions

  • 2/25/15: Director of the Department of Environmental Health approves the two stewardship plans that were submitted.

  • 2/23/15: Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Program Public Hearing to review submitted product stewardship plans

  • 12/29/14: PhRMA and other plaintiff organizations file a Petition For Writ of Certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case – Petition text

  • 9/30/14: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules for Alameda County – Court ruling

  • 7/11/14: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing video (the hearing starts around the 1:01:50 mark)

  • 9/12/13: Notice of appeal is filed by PhRMA and other plaintiff organizations in the Federal Court of Appeals

  • 8/28/13: US District Judge Richard Seeborg finds the ordinance constitutional in the 9th circuit court

  • 12/7/12: Alameda County is sued by three organizations representing the pharmaceutical industry

  • 7/24/12: Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance is adopted by unanimous vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors

Other Alameda resources:

Click to view any city or county with a pharmaceutical EPR ordinance.

 

Voluntary Pharmaceutical Stewardship

Walgreens Leads National Chains on Medication Take Back

In 2016 Walgreens became the first retailer to implement an ongoing national stewardship program by installing safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 600 drugstores in 45 states and Washington, D.C. to make the disposal of medications — including opioids and other controlled substances — easier and more convenient while helping to reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.  To date they have collected 72 tons of meds! In a Walgreens press release announcing the program, Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations said “Walgreens pharmacists play an important role in counseling patients on the safe use of their medications, and now we are leading the way in retail pharmacy’s fight against prescription drug abuse.

 

Don’t Rush to Flush, Meds in the Bin We All Win! Medicine Collection Program

CPSC received a grant from the Rose Foundation to establish a medication collection program in Sacramento and Yolo counties in July 2013. The resulting program, named “Don’t Rush to Flush, Meds in the Bin We All Win!” (DRTF) established six permanent medication sites available to the public free of charge in Sacramento and Yolo counties and has since expanded to Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Madera counties. DRTF is being licensed and sold to communities across the country. Email info@calpsc.org for more information.

 

Dispensary of Hope

An estimated $2.2 billion in sample medications provided to medical practices go to waste each year, meanwhile millions of uninsured patients go without the medications they need. Dispensary of Hope is a national, not-for-profit social enterprise that serves patients by recovering donated surplus medication from physician offices, hospital pharmacies, manufacturers, distributors, and other licensed healthcare providers. The medication is given away for free to patients who lack healthcare insurance and are under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The list of sites is available here.

Click here to connect with Dispensary of Hope on Social Media!

SIRUM

Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine (SIRUM) is 501(c)3 nonprofit that has developed an online platform to connect safety-net clinics with donated medications from suppliers, pharmacies, and health facilities. They give pharmacies an option to donate rather than destroy their unused & returned medicines. To learn more about SIRUM, watch this video.

Click here to connect with SIRUM on Social Media!

Safely Dispose of Your Medications

 

Articles & Press

 

Studies

 

Links

 

​​​

SHARPS

The Problem

Throwing away used medical sharps in the trash, recycling bin or flushing them down the toilet is illegal (SB 1305, 2006), as it poses serious health risks to children, sanitation workers, water treatment facility operators and the general public. An estimated one million Californians inject medications, 936 million needles are used by self-injectors in California each year.

 

By law, used sharps must be placed in puncture-proof bio-hazard containers and disposed at a designated sharps disposal site. However, many sharps are improperly disposed and enter the waste or recycling stream where they pose a sticking risk to workers.

 

The pictures below from the City of Burbank illustrate the problem. Improperly disposed used sharps in Burbank curbside recycling bins were collected over an eight month period. During this time, two workers were stuck by needles and had to undergo medical testing for infectious diseases. Some of these containers hold thousands of needles, with only a small percentage packaged safely.

This situation poses an opportunity for companies who manufacture sharps and injectable medications to share in the responsibility for these products at their end-of-life to protect public health. A recent study by Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) found that 4% of MRF workers are getting stuck and 95% of people improperly dispose of sharps.

 

See our Sharps Stewardship Videos on our YouTube page to watch Republic Services’ James Weglarz talk about Republics’ efforts to share in the end-of-life responsibilities and Dave Waye from Queen of the Valley Hospital talk about the successful collaboration between five private and public entities during their sharps take-back event.
 

International Sharps EPR Programs

 

Sharps EPR in the United States

 

Alameda County

The County of Alameda passed an EPR ordinance for sharps on 11/15/15. The ordinance requires producers that sell sharps in Alameda County to participate in a product stewardship plan for the collection and disposal of sharps. The ordinance went into effect on 12/18/15.

 

By June 18, 2016 sharps producers must notify the County of their intent to participate in a product stewardship plan. Proposed product stewardship plans must be submitted to the County by December 18, 2016. More information is available on Alameda County Environmental Health’s Safe Drug and Consumer-Generated Sharps Disposal webpage.

 

Santa Cruz County

The County of Santa Cruz passed an EPR ordinance for pharmaceuticals and sharps on 12/8/15. The ordinance requires producers that sell sharps in Santa Cruz County to participate in a product stewardship plan for the collection and disposal of sharps. The ordinance went into effect on 1/8/16.

 

By March 1, 2016 sharps producers must submit proposed product stewardship plans to the County for review and approval.

 

San Luis Obispo County

In 2008 the County of San Luis Obispo adopted a “transitional EPR” sharps management ordinance, setting up a program for the public to conveniently and safely take back used sharps to a retailer, free of charge. The ordinance places the responsibility for providing sharps take back on the retailers with no funding from industry or other members of the product chain. In January, 2018, San Luis Opispo passed a full EPR ordinance, requiring manufactures to pay and manage the pharmaceutical and sharps waste in the county.

 

Santa Clara County

In 2018, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance (No. NS-517.92) requiring sharps manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies who produce and distribute medicines that require home injection to submit and implement a comprehensive plan for safe disposal of consumer-generated sharps waste. This ordinance builds upon the County’s success of the existing Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance, first passed in 2015 and revised in 2017, which provides safe, free and convenient drop-off of unwanted or expired medications. See the County Press Release for more information.

 

Transitional EPR Local Programs for Sharps

A “Transitional” EPR legislation/policy requires that other members of the product chain but not the producers themselves take responsibility for end-of-life management of the product. In California transitional EPR policy has typically impacted retailers but in other countries different members of the product chain have been included.

 

City of Sacramento

In 2010, Sacramento adopted a sharps take-back ordinance that required all retail stores, hospitals, and other points of sale or distributors of sharps for home use in the City to take back sharps at no additional cost to the customer at the time of return.

 

Tulare County  

In 2014 the Tulare County JPA and eight other cities in the county adopted sharps take-back Ordinance, modeled after the 2008 San Luis Obispo ordinance, which provide no-cost sharps take-back to Tulare residents. The ordinances require pharmacies and pet stores, among other retailers of sharps in Tulare County, to establish a system for collection of home-generated sharps waste in their retail outlet.

 

Santa Cruz County 

In August 2014 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors adopted a sharps take-back ordinance, which requires every retailer and provider of sharps in the unicorporated area of the county to provide at no-cost a sharps take-back program to residents. The ordinance requires pharmacies and pet stores, medical or veterinary offices, clinics, hospitals and approved needle exchange programs located in the unincorporated area of the county to establish a system for collection of home-generated sharps waste on site during normal hours of operation. The ordinance provides several options for compliance.  The ordinance takes effect September 5, 2014 with businesses required to establish collection programs by October, 1, 2014.

 

City of Galt

On October 20, 2015 the Galt City Council adopted a sharps take-back Ordinance which requires retailers selling needles within the City to provide safe disposal for their customers. The ordinance takes effect November, 20, 2015 with businesses required to establish collection programs by January 20, 2015.

 

Del Norte County

CPSC partnered with the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority (DNSWMA) on a grant to foster more product take-back programs. CPSC and DNSWMA developed outreach materials to educate the citizens of the County on proper sharps disposal and to help them to protect their neighbors and community from needlestick injuries.

 

UltiCare

UltiCare’s “UltiGuard Safe Pack” provides an all-in-one solution that dispenses pen needles or syringes and doubles as a puncture-resistant sharps container. UltiCare is owned by UltiMed, the only sharps manufacturer that only sells sharps with a container for safe disposal, at no additional cost to the consumer. For more information, see their website.

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SOLAR PANELS

The Problem

A solar panel converts the sun’s radiant energy into electricity using cells, called photovoltaic (PV) modules, and semiconductors.  Each Photovoltaic panel has a life expectancy of 20-30 years, as stated by the leading Industry Association, and most solar products have not reached the end of their first life cycle. The International Renewable Energy Agency published information on end-of-life management for PV Panels (2016) and provided empirical data on frequent causes of PV panel failures, including degradation of the anti-reflective coating of the glass, discoloration of the ethylene vinyl acetate, delamination, contact failures in the junction box, glass breakage, loose frames, etc.

 

“The longevity of these panels, the way they’re put together and how

they make them make it inherently difficult to de-manufacture.” 

- Mark Robards, Director of Special Projects at ECS Refining,

one of the largest electronics recyclers in the U.S.

 

During their entire life cycle, from the production to their final disposal, considerable quantities of non-renewable resources generate pollution and waste with a high environmental impact. As PV panels are being removed from residential and commercial installations, recycling and proper end-of-life management becomes an increasingly imminent problem. The large amounts of mostly-recyclable waste imposes the need to plan effective processes for removal, dismantling, disposal and/or reuse. International Renewable Energy Agency suggests end-of-life management is based on the extended-producer-responsibility (EPR) principle, holding producers responsible for the environmental impact of their products through to end-of-life and provides incentives for the development of greener products with lower environmental impacts and contributes funds to finance proper collection, treatment, recycling and disposal systems.

 

California

In 2015, Senate Bill 489 CPSC Supported passage of this bill by Monning which authorizes DTSC to adopt regulations to designate used/spent solar panels that are currently hazardous wastes as universal waste. On May 9, 2018, the California Energy Commission voted unanimously to adopt new building standards that require solar photovoltaic systems starting in 2020.

 

Other States

In July 2017, Washington became the first state to pass a solar stewardship bill (ESSB 5939), requiring manufacturers selling solar products into the state to have end-of-life recycling programs for their own products. ESSB 5939 finds that a convenient, safe, and environmentally sound system for the recycling of PV modules, minimization of hazardous waste, and recovery of commercially valuable materials must be established. The responsibility for this system must be shared among all stakeholders, with manufacturers financing the take-back and recycling system.

 

Other Countries

Countries in the EU being early adopters of this technology have already seen panels coming in for recycling and have taken steps to adapt their rules and regulations to include Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principles (Mehta, 2017). The EU introduced its very first EPR legislation for waste electrical and electronic (WEEE) management in 2002 and was revised in 2012 to include PV as a separate category, in anticipation of this looming issue of end-of-life management.

 

Get Active

We have been frustrated that DTSC has yet to complete the regulations process which has left local governments, utilities and installers with no affordable way to manage the solar panels in California and led CPSC to lead a coalition that wrote a letter asking DTSC to quickly finish the regulations

Until the new regulations are adopted, solar panels are hazardous waste must be managed as such which is extremely expensive.  This situation limits who can collect PV panels and process panels as well as ensures they are very expensive to manage. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is currently engaged with CPSC and the City of Santa Monica and County of Butte to work on two pilot collection HHW grants but until the DTSC regulations are done,  we are not sure we can even implement the pilots as the cost to mange panels is too high.  Contact CPSC if you are interested in learning more or getting involved with solar panel recycling in California.

 

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TEXTILES

The Problem

According to California’s 2014 Waste Characterization Study, over 1,234,711 tons of textiles was discarded in California, contributing to 4% of the CA waste stream, not including other fiber products, like carpet. A recent study by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation indicates that our clothing consumption is increasing, while garment utilization is decreasing. In short, we are buying more clothing and disposing it more frequently. End-of-life management becomes a key element in creating a circular economy for textiles and clothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Product

Textiles are not limited to just garments, but also incorporated in many household and industrial products, like furniture and automobiles. Problematic textile products include “flushable” wet wipes and other single-use non-woven textiles that are flushed in the toilet, causing expensive sewer problems. Research has shown the synthetic micro-fibers from textiles products have been found to be the most common types of microplastic debris in the environment. They have been identified across a diversity of samples from streams, rivers, lakes, ocean water, the deep-sea, wildlife, arctic sea ice, seafood and table salt. A study in 2018 by the EU Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna detected microplastics in human bodies of 8 international participants for the first time.

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THERMOSTATS

The Problem

Mercury thermostats can be a major source of mercury contamination in the environment. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin. It does not break down in the environment and it bioaccumulates in the tissues of fish, which are then consumed by people. One gram of mercury can contaminate a 20-acre lake. Mercury thermostats, each containing about 3 grams of mercury, have been phased out in California but are still found in many homes and businesses.

 

Supporting Thermostat Stewardship

In 2008, CPSC and the California Sierra Club co-sponsored AB 2347, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act. This was the first extended producer responsibility bill to become law in California. The nonprofit Thermostat Recycling Corporation(TRC) was formed to serve as the stewardship organization and to develop a convenient take-back program. Under the law, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesalers must accept mercury thermostats from the public free-of-charge, and contractors who remove mercury thermostats must recycle them. For a free downloadable brochure click here.

Recycling mercury thermostats protects your local environment from dangerous mercury contamination. Ensure a cleaner environment for you and your neighbors and drop off your mercury thermostat at your local HHW where it can be recycled today! You may even qualify for a $5 rebate from Thermostat Recycling Corporation. Click here to see if you qualify.

 

In February 2013, CPSC and our partner organizations submitted comments on the proposed regulations to implement the new law, which were adopted in May 2013. CPSC and our allies issued this press release on the final rulemaking.

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Pictured below:

AB 2347 press conference at the Palo Alto Water Treatment Facility, October 20, 2008;

Pictured (Left to right): Barbara Spector, Mayor of Los Gatos; Rick Brauch, Dept. of Toxic Substances Control; Heidi Sanborn, CPSC; Ira Ruskin, Assemblymember and Author of AB 2347; Bill Magavern,Sierra Club California; Pat Foster, Mayor of East Palo Alto; Larry Klein, Mayor of Palo Alto;Samantha Omey, Honeywell

 

 

TOBACCO

The Problem

Tobacco Product Waste (TPW) is the number 1 most littered product worldwide with an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts entering the environment each year (Litter Free Planet, 2009). TPW includes cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, and electronic smoking devices and components. When TPW is discarded in the environment, it leaches thousands of chemicals, including 50 different carcinogenic chemicals (Puls, 2011). 

Costs of Tobacco Product Waste

TPW endangers children as the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported about 12,600 cases of children ingesting cigarettes or cigarette butts from 2006 to 2008 (Novotny, 2011). The California Department of Transportation estimates that it costs $41 million annually to clean up cigarettes on roadways. In 2009, the City of San Francisco spent nearly $10 million on cigarette butt cleanup alone. In March 2019, the Alameda County downtown streets team audited a 2 mile strip which is already cleaned 3 times per week and still found over 1,000 cigarette butts.

The Product

TPW is known to contain chemicals harmful to the environment, including pesticides, herbicides insecticides fungicides, and rodenticides. Scientific evidence reveals that hazardous materials such as acetate/rayon, pesticides, heavy metals, nicotine, ethyl phenol for flavoring, adhesives, and other additives found acutely toxic to aquatic tested at various exposures (Novotny, 2014; WHO, 2017).  Researchers Song et. Al (2017) found that 3284 citations and internal tobacco documents strongly suggest that acetate filter ventilation has contributed to the rising lung adenocarcinomas because they:

1) alter tobacco combustion, increasing smoke toxicants;

2) allow for elasticity of use so that smokers inhale more smoke to maintain their nicotine intake; and

3) cause a false perception of lower health risk from “lighter” smoke.

 

In addition to the nicotine, acetate, and adhesives added to the tobacco product during manufacturing processes. Several studies have shown chemicals that leach from cigarette butts can be acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and the surrounding ecosystem (Novotny, 2014).

Another rising tobacco product are electronic smoking devices, including, but not limited to, an e-cigarette, e-cigar, e-pipe, vape pen, or e-hookah. Electronic smoking devices pose an additional human health risk as explosions have been documented during use and disposal of the devices, some resulting in death (Molina, 2019). From 2015 to 2017, there were an estimated 2035 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries presenting to US hospital emergency departments (Rossheim, 2018).

Many electronic smoking devices use lithium ion batteries to power the device. The lithium-ion batteries power phones, laptops and power tools are fires waiting to happen. Proper management of discarded batteries has always been important to conserve resources and avoid toxic contamination, but now improper disposal of lithium batteries is causing fires. Read more about batteries and battery-caused fires here: {Link CPSC Battery Page}

 

The Solution

Advocacy groups California Product Stewardship Council and the National Stewardship Action Council advocate that producers responsible to fund, operate, and promote a convenient collection and management program for their products at end-of-life. This is especially important for hard-to-manage products, including ones that pose human health impacts. Tobacco products are included in “hard-to-manage” products.

 

We ask producers to take their fair share of responsibility for these hard-to-manage products, as local governments alone cannot handle the cost burden of toxic tobacco waste.

 

NSAC has sponsored legislation in the California State Senate, SB 424, addressing the pervasive problem of tobacco product waste by establishing a framework of standards and extended producer responsibility to ensure tobacco products are either safely recycled or collected by manufacturers for safe disposal. SB 424 addresses tobacco product waste using two strategies:

  1. Bans the sale of single-use tobacco products, including single-use filters, single-use plastic devices needed for manipulation of tobacco products, and single use electronic cigarettes. Single use products are highly likely to be improperly disposed— particularly plastic filters and holders-- and they remain costly and difficult to handle by local waste agencies even when disposed. The most effective way to reduce single-use waste is to prevent its usage in the first place.

  2. Allow the sale of multi-use tobacco products, so long as those products are ordinarily recyclable, or are collected for take-back by manufacturers of the product. Product manufacturers may form a stewardship organization to administer the take-back of non-recyclable multi-use  components. Electronic components must be collected by manufacturers under state electronic waste laws. If a component is determined to be hazardous waste, manufacturers may either institute take-back collection of that waste, or may reimburse local agencies for costs resulting from handling of that waste.

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European Parliament (October 24, 2018). Plastic Oceans: MEPs back EU ban on throwaway plastics by 2021. Plenary Session Press Release. Accessed at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20181018IPR16524/plastic-oceans-meps-back-eu-ban-on-throwaway-plastics-by-2021

 

General, S. (2014). The health consequences of smoking—50 years of progress: a report of the surgeon general. In US Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=52783CA7FBCED04C7112A72DDD1A83F1?doi=10.1.1.653.9865&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Novotny, T. E., & Slaughter, E. (2014). Tobacco Product Waste: An Environmental Approach to Reduce Tobacco Consumption. Current environmental health reports, 1(3), 208–216. doi:10.1007/s40572-014-0016-x  Accessed at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129234/

 

Puls, J., Wilson, S. A., & Hölter, D. (2011). Degradation of cellulose acetate-based materials: a review. Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 19(1), 152-165.  Accessed at:  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10924-010-0258-0

 

Rossheim, M. E., Livingston, M. D., Soule, E. K., Zeraye, H. A., & Thombs, D. L. (2018). Electronic cigarette explosion and burn injuries, US Emergency Departments 2015–2017. Tobacco control.  Accessed at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30219795


Schneider, J. E., Peterson, N. A., Kiss, N., Ebeid, O., & Doyle, A. S. (2011). Tobacco litter costs and public policy: a framework and methodology for considering the use of fees to offset abatement costs. Tobacco control, 20(Suppl 1), i36-i41.  Accessed at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3088473/

Song, M., Benowitz, N. L., Berman, M., Brasky, T. M., Cummings, K. M., Hatsukami, D. K., & Shields, P. G. (2017). Cigarette filter ventilation and its relationship to increasing rates of lung adenocarcinoma. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 109(12).  Accessed at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28525914

Pictured below:

Submissions to CDPH Photo Contest 2019 showing TPW in waterways;

Cigarette waste littered on playground;

Electronic smoking device waste collected at one high school in California