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Most of the time, when we're done using the things we buy, it's our responsibility to dispose of them properly.
But for consumers in the European Union and 25 states in the U.S., there's one notable exception: electronic waste. In those areas, the manufacturers of electronic products—such as computers, mobile phones, and televisions—are required by law to arrange for the end of the items' lifecycle. The general term for this kind of regulation is "extended producer responsibility," or EPR. The EU was the first governmental organization to implement EPR, with its 2002 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. The following year, states in the U.S. began enacting their own forms of product stewardship legislation.
Electronics - Process - Benefits - Economies - Scale
As you might guess, recycling complex electronics is not easy or cheap. The process benefits from economies of scale, and that has led to some unlikely partnerships. In order to recycle or otherwise dispose of electronics most efficiently, competing manufacturers have formed coalitions. For example, Gillette, Braun, Electrolux, and Sony teamed up to create the European Recycling Platform.
Laurens Debo, an associate professor and Bundy Faculty Fellow at Tuck, is an expert in supply chain management and has been intrigued by these uncommon coalitions. "They're competitors in the primary market and collaborators in the recycling market," he says. "They kill each other on one side, and work together on the other side." For Debo, these partnerships are important to understand—if they're successful, they could result in high rates of recycling and the lowest possible cost to consumers. And if the partnerships fall apart, e-recycling may suffer, and consumers will be paying more, since individual firms will end up recycling on their own at a higher cost per unit.
Question - Conditions - Coalitions - Debo - Coauthors
The question is: what are the optimal conditions for long-lasting e-recycling coalitions? Debo, along with coauthors Fang Tian of Pepperdine and Greys...
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