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What is Product Stewardship?

Product stewardship programs require producers of a product to take responsibility for minimizing the product's environmental impact from the development of the product to the final disposal of it.

These programs finance, collect, transport and responsibly recycle or dispose of their products at end of life. Product stewardship programs are being implemented in Canada, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world – including here in King County.

We endorse product stewardship principles as a management strategy. In the current waste management system, all the responsibility for managing toxic products falls to local government and ratepayers, even if they don’t use the products. The manufacturers who designed and marketed the products are not part of the disposal or recycling system.

Local Voluntary Programs

The Take it Back Network is a partnership among retailers, repair shops, charitable organizations, recyclers and government agencies that provides consumers with safe and convenient recycling options for products that contain hazardous components. The program accepts electronics from residents. For a list of locations visit the Take it Back Network (external link).

Some voluntary medicine take backs accept unwanted medicines from residents in Washington at these locations (external link). Mercury-containing thermostats (external link) and rechargeable batteries (external link) are also collected through product stewardship programs.


Mercury Lights: A law in 2010 created a convenient, statewide recycling program for mercury-containing lighting from Washington State residents. The law was amended in March 2014, and the recycling program created by the law began January 1, 2015. The law requires that no-cost recycling services must be provided for residents in each county and, at a minimum, in every city with population greater than 10,000.

A stewardship organization will operate the recycling program Light Recycle Washington (external link). The bill requires that mercury-containing lamps are recycled by all residents and by all government, industrial, and commercial facilities. Disposal of mercury-containing lights in the garbage or landfills is prohibited.
For more information, visit the Department of Ecology's Mercury Lights Stewardship Program (external link) webpage.

For information about the legislation, contact Mendy Droke, LHWMP Policy Liaison, at  206-477-4632.

Medicines: The King County Board of Health passed the Secure Medicine Return Regulations on June 20, 2013 creating a drug take-back system for King County residents.

The County's new law is a significant step towards reducing preventable deaths from drug overdoses. When implemented, the program will collect and safely dispose of unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medicines at pharmacies and law enforcement offices throughout the county at no cost to the resident. Under this product stewardship model, drug manufacturers selling medicines for residential use in King County will fund and operate the program.

For additional information on implementation of King County's Secure Medicine Return regulations visit (external link).

Paint: The Paint Stewardship bill (ESHB 1571) passed out of the House of Representatives but did not pass in the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, therefore the bill is dead for the 2016 legislative session.  A similar bill is expected to be introduced by the American Coatings Association in the 2017 session which begins January 9th.

Other efforts

The Program participates in the Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC) (external link), a coalition of government organizations (external link) in Washington and Oregon that operates as an unincorporated association of members. The mission of the Council is to integrate product stewardship principles into the policy and economic structures of the Pacific Northwest.

Program staff also participate in the Product Stewardship Institute's (external link) work groups, planning, research, pilot projects and coordination efforts.