Category Archives: Product Stewardship Institute

Announcing the New PSI Logo: a Note from CEO and Founder Scott Cassel

cropped-2018-primary-logo.pngToday, PSI launches its new logo as the next step in the evolution of our brand.

In 2000, PSI became the first national organization to systematically promote the concept of product stewardship in the U.S. The first thing we did, after forming our Board of Directors, was develop a name, tagline, and logo.

The name and tagline were easy. I chose Product Stewardship because it implies all stakeholders have a role to play in reducing product impacts, even if one of those actors – manufacturers – has the greatest responsibility. In 2000, and perhaps still today, the term “product stewardship” invited dialogue, more so than holding one stakeholder solely responsible. We used the word Institute to convey the academic rigor we would use to affect change. And we included a tagline for the times – Sustainable Solutions to Protect Our Environment.

PSI Logo
The original PSI logo

But developing the logo took four long months. That logo lasted us 17 years. Although I must admit the original logo looks a bit like the planet Saturn, it also conveyed a sense of movement and the gathering of ever increasing layers of stakeholders around a central table, amidst a blue/green landscape. Movement, collaboration, action-the essential elements for introducing a new concept like product stewardship.

Alas, a reboot was long overdue. Luckily, we found a talented young designer, Anthony Howard, who led us quickly through a two-month process through which we retained all we liked about the original logo, but incorporated fresh, clean, and modern design elements. We kept our name, the circularity of the dialogue table (or should I say the circular economy table?), and the blue/green color scheme. But we simplified the logo, removing the tagline and multiple shades, and amplified the acronym by which most people now know us. The sharp angles of “PSI” in our new logo represent the continued cutting-edge nature of our work and convey forward progress, as well as the head-on approach needed for change.

As PSI enters its 18th year in business, I feel fortunate to have worked with so many talented staff, board members, advisory council members, industry and organizational partners, and government members – in the U.S. Canada, Europe, and globally. There are now thousands of people in the U.S. who discuss the concepts of product stewardship and EPR openly and actively. These people helped pass many of the nation’s 110 EPR laws on 13 product categories in 31 states, even as we work in equal measure on voluntary programs in states whose political compass is in a non-regulatory direction.

We will be gradually rolling out this logo into all of our materials over the next few months. The branding also sets the stage for our website redesign – one of PSI’s major priorities in 2018. Be on the lookout for great things to come!


Back to the New Normal

Boston-StrongLast week swept through Boston like a year, a silent moving picture whose old-time footage crackled with age, but, bright with modern day color, was telling of the future. On the other hand, at times, the events in happened so painfully slowly, with an air of inevitability, waiting, on the table’s edge, as the glass shook and started to fall, down, to the, floor.

Being American allows us to have a sense that justice will be served, that the rule of law will prevail, that we will swallow the evil, find an antidote to the germ, spit it out, and keep moving forward. Boston showed the best of America, and the best of humanity. Lives were saved here by how people reacted. The media found people who gave voice to heroism and humanity: the pediatric medical resident who pleaded with police to let her back through the barricade after she finished running the marathon because she just had to help; the man who lost one son to Iraq and another to suicide who came to the marathon to support veterans and mental health advocates, then ended up saving the life of a man who lost both of his legs; the young Chinese women laying flowers at the makeshift memorial at Berkeley and Boylston Streets; the neighbor providing the vision of a little girl who lost a leg but will dance again in the future; and the proud grandmother with breathing apparatus blessing the memory of her granddaughter who died by telling us about her good nature and curly hair that she had filled with bows before sending her off to school when she was a child.

We now know who did this unthinkable act. We do not really yet know why. But it does seem to be about rage, like a pressure cooker bursting because no one was watching the stove. Was it because of a failure to succeed in the Land of Opportunity when one man’s timeframe reached its limit? Was it the treacherous path of a young man that led to a jihadist’s door behind which despair utters epithets in masked disgrace? We don’t yet know, and we may never. It does seem, though, that these two kids inflicted their own inner turmoil on our innocent people.

Last week marked the reaction of a healthy society. We are fortunate to have the freedom to enjoy races, to walk about without soldiers at every corner, without snipers and bombs, and without barbed wire to protect our homes. With all of our struggles over ideology and policy, the United States is functional, strong, and effective, and clearly knows right from wrong. It is a place where everyone has a chance to succeed – as the bombers’ uncle poignantly insisted – even as we struggle to level the playing field.

Boston is the medical capital of the world, and the reaction of its citizens and expertise of its medical professionals saved lives. But there is something else that makes me proud to live here – it is hard to express, but it was on display for the world, as we grieved while in pursuit, searched while we pondered, and cried while we functioned very effectively. I am comforted knowing that we each feel the obligation to watch the back of the other, to help when not called, and to bring us back quickly to a place of security.

I look forward to standing among the masses again at many future Boston marathons to cheer the endurance of our patriots.

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Boston Marathon Bombings: Copley Square Will Never Be the Same

American flags and bouquets adorn the street barricade at the intersection of Berkeley and Boylston Streets in Boston's Back Bay community.

American flags and bouquets adorn the street barricade at the intersection of Berkeley and Boylston Streets in Boston’s Back Bay community.

At 2:50 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, as marathon runners were approaching the finish line and their fans cheered them on, a staff member and I were racing against the clock to submit testimony in support of battery EPR legislation in California.

Earlier that morning, I had come downtown on the trolley to work in our office near Copley Square, and had planned to head out for a few hours during the day to enjoy the marathon. In my 28 years in Boston, I had never been to the finish line, choosing instead to stay with my wife and neighbors at mile 23, cheering on the blur of athletes along with the masses. With my wife traveling on business this year, I was hoping for a different experience. But deadlines and unexpected requests came rolling in, and I got absorbed in work. Deadline: 3:30 p.m..

3:14 p.m. – “Scott, did you hear that there was just a bomb that went off at the marathon?”

One of the staff heard the blasts, just a few blocks away, in Copley Square. Looking out my window, people walked casually down the alley, no sign of mayhem or even concern. Was there damage?

The Boston Commons became the site of a media frenzy in the hours following the bombing.

The Boston Commons became the site of a media frenzy in the hours following the bombing.

3:16 p.m. – “My mom just called the office. Right on Boylston. Two bombs.”

Then we glued to the news.

Three of us were in the office that day. One was on vacation, three were working from home, and one had taken the day off to watch the marathon, in person, downtown, in the crowd. Did anyone hear from Mike!?

Flashback to September 11, 2001. I boarded an airplane at Logan Airport in Boston at 8:00 a.m. destined for Los Angeles, with a stop in Minneapolis. I was en route to a National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative meeting in Minneapolis when the pilot entered my airspace to say that our plane was asked to land in northern Michigan. He was calm. I thought we had a technical malfunction. When the plane landed and all the passengers were taken into the terminal, the rows of TVs showed buildings crumbling and on fire. These same electronics that were to be the subject of our recycling meeting were now the transmitter of a new era. Another plane leaving Logan Airport at 8:00 a.m. destined for Los Angeles was boarded by terrorists and never landed safely. It became someone’s weapon of that new era.

Boston police line the city streets in the wake of the tragedy.

Boston police line the city streets in the wake of the tragedy.

Fast-forward to Monday, April 15, 2013. That evening, I walked halfway home, the trains not running downtown, my normal route home diverted by thousands of police. I felt like the pulsating blue dot on my iPad’s GPS – the one on the map that starts out surrounded by a wide circle but slowly zeroes in on my location – and I suddenly realized: Boston is now an epicenter of terror. I went through neighborhoods I did not know, places I had not seen, as streams of ambulances whisked past, lights flashing, sirens blaring, at every corner, for blocks and blocks, yellow tape fluttering, neon vests bobbing, people fighting for their lives, a city mobilized in goodness and prayer. Copters overhead fttt fttt fttt in the cool, clear air. Red lights. Blue lights. Flashing, blurring. I spotted a trolley as it emerged from the depths at St. Mary’s street, hopped aboard, paid my fare, and was transported outbound, where my TV would tell me the story that my heart already knew.

The Copley Square T Station on Boylston Street in Boston, typically abuzz with city life, is now surrounded by barricades and desolate, closed to the public after the bombings.

The Copley Square T Station on Boylston Street in Boston, typically abuzz with city life, is now surrounded by barricades and desolate, closed to the public after the bombings.

Today, my train stop at Copley Square in downtown Boston is still closed. The underground station stop from which I surface every morning on my way to work, and into which I descend every evening on my way back home, suddenly seems claustrophobic, a trap. The street and sidewalk are now a crime scene, stained red with sorrow. The mundane is now a blessing, screaming for mercy.

Boston is sad. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. An area brimming with bustle has been transformed into a desolate zone sectioned off with cold metal barriers. The sadness is tinged with disbelief. Someone took a beautiful event – where children hand out orange slices and cups of water to toiling runners – and tarnished it forever.

But Boston is also compassionate and tough. The instantaneous reactions of people who ripped off their shirts to help the wounded, or who fearlessly rushed toward the blasts to help save lives, has shown that we live in a great society. These acts of heroism were not calculated movements. They were reactions of people who grew up learning to be kind to one another and to help others in need.

A handwritten poster hangs from a street barricade near Copley Square.

A handwritten poster hangs from a street barricade near Copley Square.

The memorials of teddy bears, flowers, and signs, and the spontaneous singing to sooth the circumstances, have all come from the innermost part of our collective soul. The mobilization that followed this tragedy has provided us all with a great beacon of hope that now permeates the downtown devastation.

Over the past few days, I have received an outpouring of heartfelt support from my family, friends, and colleagues, who let me know that they care – about me and my family, about our staff, about Boston, and about what happened at Copley Square.

Yes, the bombs mark a “new era.” But those phone calls, emails, and text messages of support, along with all the heroics during and after the bombings, will be what I remember most about this horrific event. We truly are “…one Nation under God, indivisible…”

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Gina McCarthy: A Blast from the Past, An Administrator for the Future

It was 1997. I was listening to Ron Driedger, an official from the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, discuss during a keynote presentation how his agency required producers to pay for managing their post-consumer products. From paint to pharmaceuticals, Ron said, industry-funded take-back programs enabled cost-effective recycling and safe disposal of a range of consumer products. This decreased not only government spending, but also the potential for negative environmental impacts due to improper waste management.

I was intrigued.

As the Director of Waste Policy and Planning for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and in the midst of writing the state’s solid waste master plan for my fourth time, I knew we needed new ideas—and quickly. So when I returned to the office, I told my boss that I wanted this producer responsibility waste management approach to be the United States’ chief import. I made the case that product stewardship policy could not only save governments millions of dollars, but also be good for the environment and create recycling jobs. Then, I went out on a limb even further: I proposed creating a new, national nonprofit organization focused on this new concept of product stewardship. One that would be the voice for state and local governments. One that would help spur economic growth and cut back on taxpayer costs. One that would work to benefit the environment by finding innovative solutions to managing post-consumer solid waste. And one that would get government and industry to work collaboratively toward a common goal.

My boss—Gina McCarthy—bought into the idea.

Well, okay. She actually told me to finish the solid waste plan, first. Then, she asked for a business plan.

It took months of discussion and multiple drafts of that business plan, but in the end, Gina followed through, providing the funding and support that I needed to start the Product Stewardship Institute.

Thirteen years later, Gina McCarthy is poised to become the next head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, having earned the nomination from President Barack Obama. And she brings exactly the type of leadership that EPA needs.

Gina is an innovator and, by extension, a supporter of innovation. When I started PSI, I had to overcome numerous roadblocks that a bevy of detractors (mostly people who saw PSI as a threat to their turf) set up for me. Gina, however, saw PSI as an opportunity. In fact, she became one of the first PSI board members, helping to guide and shape the nascent organization. She understood the balancing act we were playing between government, business, and environmental activists. She took a calculated risk, asked questions, and provided advice. She helped PSI move forward by making decisions based on sound information, thoughtful deliberation, and consideration of multiple viewpoints.

The EPA’s past support for product stewardship has been instrumental in PSI successes, too. This includes our national paint dialogue, which led to a major waste management agreement with the paint industry, as well as our pilot computer take-back project with Staples, which led to nationwide take-back programs by Staples, Best Buy, Office Depot, and Office Max.

Unfortunately, the EPA’s more recent approach to product stewardship has been tepid, and there have been missed opportunities. With Gina at the helm, though, I feel confident that she would breathe fresh life into that seemingly worn banner of “change” that was unfurled at the White house in the early days of the first administration. The EPA needs fresh ideas. It needs a fighter. It needs someone who will advocate for progressive environmental interests while tempering that passion with economic and political realities.

Gina is a kid from Boston with the street smarts to manage a bureaucracy that’s in the crosshairs of Congress. She’s the “anti-intellectual” who’s intelligent. She’s the tough regulator who knows when to cut a deal. She’s the baseball manager who kicks dirt on an umpire’s bad call but then goes out for beers with the umpires after the game. From local health official to state and federal regulator, Gina has climbed the ladder while maintaining close ties to business leaders and environmental groups.

I think the President made the right choice by nominating Gina. Let’s hope Congress does, too.

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