Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Managing Product Life Cycles in Korea for Sustainability

A key component of sustainability is waste management, which, if properly carried out, can lead to a cleaner and less wasteful society. A major part of waste in our modern world comes from the huge number of consumer goods in the market, which become useless material after disposal. The concept of “product stewardship” deals with managing the environmental impact of a product by having everyone involved in the lifespan of the product, and plays an active role in ensuring that the product is used and disposed in a way that promotes sustainability. Initially, managing a product’s environmental impact had been centered on EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) which places the responsibility for the reuse, recycling or disposal of a product on the producer. 

Product stewardship takes the concept of EPR one step further by dividing the responsibility for the environmental impact of a product amongst manufacturers, retailers, importers, governments and consumers. The paradigm shift towards product stewardship is crucial in the sense that it reduces waste as well as overuse of resources. If consumers use and throw away products carelessly, producers end up with more to recycle than they would otherwise, which is wasteful. By involving consumers and retailers in the process, we can ensure that products are used in the most optimal way and waste is taken down to its bare minimum.

Currently, South Korea uses an EPR oriented scheme whereby obligations and mechanisms are centred on producer responsibility towards meet recycling targets. The scheme, termed the Product Recycling System, was adopted in 2003 and requires manufacturers to pay the costs for recycling their products and provides mandatory recycling targets. The products and materials covered under the scheme include electronic equipment, tyres, lubricants, batteries, fluorescent lamps, and packaging materials as well as agricultural products, marine farm products, cleansers, medicines and cosmetics. The scheme seems to have provided a good start, but the focus will need to shift eventually. Given the Korean consumers’ high drive for the consumer products marketplace and reckless usage of products, adopting product stewardship would greatly reduce waste and enhance efficient usage of resources. 

A good starting step would be to mirror other countries that are currently running product stewardship schemes, as benchmarks. Japan is probably the most advanced country in East Asia in this area and can provide a good model. Some of the strategies that can be replicated from Japan include establishing legislation related to specific products, making consumers financially responsible for disposal of their goods by using a multi-part docket system for disposal of products, and broadening product coverage to include other categories of goods. Taiwan also seems to be progressing rapidly towards product stewardship and their strategies and policies can provide useful insights. 

Regardless of which countries are used as benchmarks and which strategies are adopted, the transition to product stewardship will be worthwhile and will serve as milestone in establishing a sustainable society.

Nousheen Samuel is currently a Woosong Student studying at the SolBridge International School of Business 


I agree that these waste management efforts should be taken seriously in Asia and even the whole world. By encouraging proper waste disposal in every sector, it will greatly help our environment in the long term.

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We must seek proper waste management services in order for our earth to become clean, at least little by little. Proper waste disposal is just the beginning of this milestone.

I agree with the last comment. It is important to seek and implement proper waste management to save our nature. Proper waste management is indeed the key to sustainability.

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Part of our social care courses are about maintaining cleanliness in our environment not only for our personal benefit but also for the good of our community. Your care for your environment also mirrors how you would care for others.

We love mother nature that's why perth bin hire are being implemented in our place. We really like the idea because the place was a lot more cleaner than before.

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