Last week, Quality Certification Alliance exhibited at the 2017 U.S. Product Stewardship Forum, hosted by the Product Stewardship Institute. The event focused primarily on extended producer responsibility, a strategy that promotes integrating environmental costs associated with products throughout their life cycle into the market price of the products.


Attendees included sustainability and waste management professionals, state and local government representatives, environmental sustainability associations and organizations, and major energy brands.


QCA’s Tim Brown, Executive Director of Operations, represented QCA at the forum. “The attendees were determined to protect the environment and reduce waste,” Brown says. “Since promotional products – especially the cheap stuff – contribute to the waste stream, I was concerned about whether we would be accepted.”


Brown’s fears were somewhat mollified after listening to several session presenters, who made it clear that businesses must make a profit in order to keep the economy going. What they wanted was for companies to learn how to make a profit responsibly through the reclamation of products.


On Point for Product Quality

Attendees’ biggest concern regarding promotional products was the “throwaway” nature of promotional products, Brown says. “If a cheap pen quits working within a week, then it gets tossed,” Brown adds. “This defeats the purpose of the promotional product. Unfortunately, too many end buyers and end users see promotional products as cheap throwaways.”


One way to dispel that image is to educate on the value of quality products rather than take orders for the cheap stuff. “Attendees understood that better quality means less items going into the waste stream as quickly,” Brown says.


Since the forum focused on the importance of recycling batteries, electronics, and other products containing rare earth metals – and how this creates a circular economy that reduces the costs and impact of future mining – the issue was brought up by attendees when in discussion with Brown.


“The proper disposal of batteries was a big concern, based on the amount of tech items sold in the promotional products industry,” Brown says. “Attendees would like to see an effort on behalf of the promotional products industry to collect or direct people to proper disposal resources for unwanted products.”


Takeaways & Opportunities

What were Brown’s takeaways from the Product Stewardship Forum? Was there anything he learned that could impact the future of the promotional products industry?


“I see an opportunity for companies in the industry to demonstrate their commitment to corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship through partnering with national recyclers and waste management companies,” Brown says. “Businesses can help reclaim, reuse, recycle or more responsibly destroy products at the end of their life cycle rather than simply throwing them in the trash.”


Brown is currently speaking with waste management companies and recyclers to see what kinds of options and partnerships exist in this area. “In some way, QCA will take a lead in this endeavor as it is in line with our values and mission,” he adds.


The forum also inspired Brown to think about how industry companies could approach the product life cycle in a new way.


“In our industry, companies can work with every link in the supply chain to address the entire life cycle of a product,” Brown says. “This could lead to discovering new, sustainable solutions and imaginative ways of turning waste into a resource.”



About the Author

Brittany Glenn is a highly creative and talented communicator and marketer with 15 years of experience in internal and external communication; digital communication; marketing communication; public relations; and writing and editing. She is also adept at project management, program development, and communication/marketing strategy.