National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative
In December 2000, PSI held the country’s first national Product Stewardship Forum and focused on electronic products, among five priority waste streams. From this government forum grew the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI), which became the country’s first national discussion among electronics manufacturers, state and local government agencies, recyclers, and non-governmental organizations. The goal of the dialogue was to develop a written agreement among stakeholders that would increase the collection, reuse, and recycling of used electronic products, and include a sustainable financing system. The products addressed in the dialogue were televisions, computer monitors, CPUs, laptops, and computer peripherals, such as printers.
The NEPSI dialogue began informally in April 2000, then formally in June of that same year. It included over 45 participants and numerous observers. PSI's role in the dialogue was to coordinate over 20 state agencies and several dozen local agencies that took part. The Institute assisted in developing the government group’s policy positions on NEPSI proposals, and served as a clearinghouse of electronics information through its government listserv, e-mail lists, conference calls, and other communication means. The NEPSI dialogue was coordinated by the University of Tennessee, which received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2004, stakeholders negotiated a formal resolution facilitated by the Electronic Industries Alliance, the Product Stewardship Institute, and the University of Tennessee. The resolution outlined a scope of products to be covered by federal legislation and a hybrid financing system that would start with an advanced recovery fee to cover historic and orphan products but transition to producer responsibility at a later date based on a set of criteria to be determined. The resolution put a halt on further discussions until manufacturers could come back with a viable system to which they all agreed. The next time that a national proposal was floated by a coalition of manufacturers was 2007. By then, NEPSI had disbanded and states focused on passing their own legislation.
Although the NEPSI dialogue did not result in a national agreement, it was a significant turning point in the United States. Since it was the first large multi-stakeholder product dialogue, it attracted national attention and a large commitment of resources. NEPSI also became the first dialogue, along with the national carpet discussions, in which industry consciously committed to take a product stewardship approach. This transformation took several years to evolve and was heightened in response to state legislative pressure that started to increase as the bid for a national negotiated solution started to wane.