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2010年4月8日 星期四

Extended producer responsibility spreads

誰生產誰負責 廠商必須面對的「延伸責任」

作者:經濟學人  出處:天下雜誌 444期 2010/04

相關關鍵字:經濟學人

愈來愈多政府要求廠商負起處理廢棄產品的責任。業者與其排斥,不如換個腦袋,積極面對。

喜歡買東西的人,一定常有「買了就後悔」的感覺,而再過不久,「賣了就後悔」恐怕也會變成商家們普遍的心聲,因為愈來愈多政府都要求製造廠,負起處理廢棄產品的責任。

這種稱為「生產者延伸責任」(extended producer responsibility,EPR)的立法,以往多半針對輪胎、電子等特定產品,但美國緬因州更進一步,在三月底簽署新法,成為全美第一個實施概括性EPR(範圍可能涵蓋所有產品)的州政府。

鼓勵廠商重新設計產品

各地政府都想減輕廢棄物處理的責任,尤其是電子、電池、油漆、汽車零件和殺蟲劑瓶罐等產品,不但很難回收,還可能有毒。把責任交給廠商,有兩個好處:第一是替地方政府省錢,緬因州政府從二○○四年實施電子廢棄物的EPR以來,每年省下了一五○~三○○萬美元的經費。

第二,這麼做可以鼓勵廠商重新設計產品,提高使用壽命和回收價值,盡量不要一埋了事。

美國已經有三十一州實施特定產品的EPR,加拿大和日本也有類似立法;歐盟則要求廠商回收包裝、電子產品和車輛。澳洲等國也在考慮跟進。

這次緬因州的立法,授權州政府逐項增列必須回收的產品,讓許多廠商「剉著等」。加州商會痛斥這些法案是「工作殺手」,警告這些成本最後都會轉嫁給消費者。產品管理協會總監卡索還發現,廠商面對EPR的落實,往往要歷經不同的「哀傷階段」:從起初拒絕,到最後勉強接受。

但也有製造商、零售商自動推出回收計劃,例如惠普就宣稱它的產品設計符合「從搖籃到搖籃」(cradle-to-cradle)理念,可以循環利用。史泰博(Staples)與家得寶(Home Depot)也自行推動電腦、燈泡與電池的回收。

其實,廠商對EPR的最大抱怨,不在於成本多寡,而是各地法令不一,配合起來很麻煩,還不如由中央拿出一套規定,全國照辦。(吳怡靜譯)


Extended producer responsibility spreads

Governments oblige manufacturers to take back used goods for disposal

FOR seasoned shoppers, "buyer's remorse" is a familiar feeling. "Seller's remorse" may also become common soon, as ever more governments order manufacturers to assume the cost of disposing of their products after consumers are done with them. Until recently, most laws on "extended producer responsibility" (EPR) or "product stewardship" applied only to specific types of goods, such as car tyres or electronics. But in late March Maine, following the lead of several Canadian provinces, became the first American state to enact a blanket EPR law, which could in principle cover any product.

Governments are eager to unload some responsibility for waste management onto manufacturers, especially for products that are hard to recycle or may be toxic, such as electronics, batteries, paint, car parts and pesticide containers. It helps them cut costs, for one thing—handy for local authorities short of cash in the recession. In Maine, which has had an EPR law for electronic waste since 2004, municipalities save $1.5m-3m annually because manufacturers have picked up the cost of collection, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Governments also hope that EPR laws will encourage firms to rethink the way they make products, designing them for longevity and recyclability rather than for the landfill.

Thirty-one of America's 50 states have product-specific EPR laws. The European Union requires manufacturers to dispose of packaging, electronics and vehicles. Canada and Japan also have EPR laws. Other countries, such as Australia, have flirted with the idea.

Maine's new "framework" law makes it much easier to expand the scope of EPR schemes, by establishing a process for adding products to the list of those covered without requiring a new law each time. The state government, which already enforces five product-specific EPR laws, is now said to have carpet-makers and drugs firms in its sights.

This worries businesses, few of which are eager to pick up the bill for waste disposal. Some business associations, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, have denounced EPR bills as "job killers". They point out that the increased costs are ultimately borne by consumers. But that does not worry supporters of EPR, who argue that the price of a product should reflect its full "life-cycle" costs, including disposal, rather than simply leaving taxpayers to make up the difference. Moreover, unless manufacturers are forced to bear the costs, they will have no incentive to make their wares easy to dispose of.

Scott Cassel, executive director of the Product Stewardship Institute, a non-profit organisation, says he has noticed different "stages of grief for companies" coping with the reality of EPR, starting with denial and moving to begrudging acceptance. Not all companies are mourning, however. Some manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily rolled out collection programmes in states that do not require them. Hewlett-Packard, a technology firm, claims to design its products with ease of recycling in mind—cradle-to-cradle, as the jargon has it. Staples, which sells office supplies, and Home Depot, a home-improvement retailer, both offer national take-back programmes in their stores for such items as computer monitors, compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries. Such programmes may enhance customer loyalty, particularly among environmentally conscious consumers.

Some companies may also be hoping that starting their own collection programmes could help them pre-empt legislation. "We thought we could get out in front of this and set up a system to collect our products, and the exact opposite happened," says Doug Smith of Sony, an electronics giant. He does not believe EPR laws have much impact on product design.

Companies' biggest gripe about EPR laws is not their cost but their inconsistency. Few states have the same requirements, making compliance complicated for manufacturers. Many businesses would favour a national policy rather than a patchwork of local laws. EPR laws, it seems, are set to win extended responsibility themselves.


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