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Book Chapter

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Temple University Press


Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that holds manufacturers accountable for the full costs of their products at every stage in their life cycle. EPR typically involves requiring that producers take back their products at the end of their useful lives, or pay a recycling contractor to do so, thereby internalizing the costs of recycling or disposal in a manufacturer’s bottom line. When companies know that they will bear the costs of product return and recycling, they are more likely to redesign their products for easier and safer handling at each step in the life cycle. This approach “enforces a design strategy that takes into account the upstream environmental impacts inherent in the selection, mining and extraction of materials, the health and environmental impacts to workers and surrounding communities during the production process itself, and downstream impacts during use, recycling and disposal of the products” (EPR Working Group 2003, 2). In short, by requiring a company to take its products back, EPR aims to force the company to make the products cleaner in the first place. The idea of applying EPR policy to electronics arrived in the United States in the 1990s as a welcome import from Europe. This chapter traces EPR’s adoption by coalitions of U.S. environmental, labor, and health activists seeking a comprehensive policy solution to the health and safety threats posed by the high-technology industry’s internationalization.

Chapter of

Challenging the chip: Labor rights and environmental justice in the global electronics industry


Ted Smith
David A. Sonnenfeld
David Naguib Pellow


Copyright © 2006 Temple University Press. Reprinted with permission. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of scholarly citation, none of this work may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher.



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