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What is Product Stewardship?

Product Stewardship is an environmental management strategy that means whoever designs, produces, sells, or uses a product takes responsibility for minimizing the product's environmental impact throughout all stages of the products' life cycle. The greatest responsibility lies with whoever has the most ability to affect the life cycle environmental impacts of the product.

The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program or LHWMP endorses product stewardship principles as a management strategy because 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. Product stewardship programs require producers to 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.

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 fluorescent bulbs and tubes from residents and businesses for a fee. For a list of locations to take your bulbs and tubes visit the Take it Back Network.

The Unwanted Medicine Return program accepts unwanted medicines from residents at 37 take-back locations in Washington.

Mercury-containing thermostats and rechargeable batteries are also collected through product stewardship programs.


Safe, convenient drug take-back law passed by Board of Health
This new program will provide a safe medicine disposal system for King County residents.

On June 20, 2013, the King County Board of Health took a significant remaining step towards reducing preventable deaths from drug overdoses by passing a Rule & Regulation to create a drug take-back system for King County residents. The program promotes the safe disposal of unused prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and will be funded and operated by the drug manufacturers who produce the medications. Implementation of the program is expected to take up to 18 months based on the requirements specified in the Rule & Regulation.

SB 5543 was signed by Governor Gregoire on March 19, 2010. The bill creates a convenient, statewide recycling program for mercury-containing lighting from residents in Washington State starting in 2013. 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.

The Department of Ecology will contract with a stewardship organization to operate the recycling program (Light-Cycle Washington). 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.

Implementation of this program has been delayed. For more information, visit the Department of Ecology's Mercury Lights Stewardship Program webpage.
For information about both pieces of legislation, contact Margaret Shield, LHWMP Policy Liaison, at or 206-263-3059.

Secure Medicine Return

This legislation known as the Secure Medicine Return bill, made progress through the House in 2009 and will be run again in the 2010 session.

Mercury-containing Lighting Recycling

This legislation known as the Product Stewardship Recycling Act for Mercury-Containing Lights also made progress through the House in 2009 and will be run again in the 2010 session.

For more information about both bills, contact Margaret Shield, LHWMP Policy Liaison, at or 206-263-3059.

Other efforts

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

LHWMP also participates in product stewardship efforts that address paint, packaging, automotive products, other mercury-containing products, electronics and chemicals.

LHWMP staff serve on the Product Stewardship Institute’s (PSI) board of directors and actively participate in PSI work groups, planning, research, pilot projects and coordination efforts.