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The Shape of Things to Come

By: Andrew H. Dent, Material ConneXion
Posted: January 5, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Increased Take Back Programs and Extended Producer Responsibility

Just because someone buys a product, does not automatically mean that it will be solely his responsibility for what happens to it at the end of its life. The idea of extended producer responsibility has been around for some time, but it is gaining importance with the increased costs and scarcity of raw materials and considerations of recycling/waste issues. Computers, TVs, office chairs, carpeting and DVDs are already taken back in one form or another, why not beauty packaging? Whether for legislative or legal reasons, to reclaim raw materials or simply because it works well as a marketing story, this is going to be a major part of many companies future supply chain management thinking.

Just because a product can be recycled, doesn’t mean it will be. Brand owners should consider the following: Are there basic steps that can be taken to ensure greater recyclability? How often can a material be recycled? Can a recycled material be recycled again? When is it viable to use a take back program?

Toxic Materials: What Can’t Be Used Now or Later

Increased restriction on toxic or potentially harmful chemicals

A recent issue of the New York Times carried an opinion piece on the possible increased cancer risk to humans as a result of the myriad chemicals they are exposed to on a daily basis through a number of daily, basic interactions.** Blanket statements such as “avoid XYZ plastics” go beyond the consideration of particular application and play to the idea of “if I am not sure, better be on the safe side and avoid this.” This general move away from trusting chemical companies suggests a seismic shift in consumer attitudes—one that doubts that scientists always know what is bad for them.