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Extended Producer Responsibility in the United States

Full Speed Ahead?


  • Jennifer Nash,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to: Jennifer Nash, Executive Director, Regulatory Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Email:,

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  • Christopher Bosso


Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that requires manufacturers to finance the costs of recycling or safely disposing of products consumers no longer want. This article describes the evolution of EPR policies in the United States, focusing on the role of states as policy actors. For their part, federal lawmakers have not embraced EPR policies except to remove some barriers to state-level initiatives. In the two-decade period from 1991 to 2011, U.S. states enacted more than 70 EPR laws. In addition, manufacturers have implemented voluntary programs to collect and recycle products, but those efforts have proven largely ineffective in capturing significant quantities of waste products. With the help of new coalitions of diverse interest groups, recently states have renewed efforts to establish effective EPR programs, enacting 40 laws in the period 2008–2011. Several state initiatives suggest a more promising future for EPR.

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