How effective are product recalls?
Past research has shown great variability in the success of product recalls, but the average recall results in the actual return of about 18 percent of the defective or dangerous products sold. Most of the remaining eighty percent remain in commerce, although some find their way to landfills. The latter is an imperfect solution where the defect is toxicity, as with, for example, lead jewelry. It is a better solution than another regular alternative: many toxic products are simply re-packaged and shipped to an unregulated third-world market. Other products end up on e-bay.
In one month, 1100 of the 100,000 children's gardening tools recalled by Jo-Ann Stores had been returned. After two months, NO defective Cub Scout badges had been returned to the manufacturer. Low-priced products, often toys and trinkets, are returned at rates much lower than the "average" of eighteen percent. The New York Times quoted a figure of only five percent. Ultimately, the CPSC "recall" system is as defective as the products recalled and a tepid solution for genuine hazards. A much better system would regulate the products before they are widely disseminated, and provide a more systematic approach to accounting for recalled materials.