NWRIC calls for regulatory battery product stewardship scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

It has called on the Federal Environment Minister to broaden the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all types of handheld batteries up to five kilograms.

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Under the NTCRS, more than 1800 collection services are available to the public which could be used to include batteries, according to NWRIC.

Lithium ion batteries pose hazards in kerbside recycling bins, potentially leading to spontaneous combustion if pierced due to mechanical handling in waste collection trucks and recycling facilities.

Lithium, nickel, lead and cadmium are finite resource in waste batteries that can be highly recyclable if correctly separated.

According to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative only three per cent of batteries are recycled, with 70 per cent being sent to landfill.

NWRIC said that such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” NWRIC said in a release.

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Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 consultation paper

The Federal Government has released a consultation paper of its review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011, including the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).

The Review of the Product Stewardship Act, including the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme – Consultation Paper was released in March 2018.

Last year, the government announced the first review of the Act since it commenced in 2011, and the Department of Environment and Energy will actively seek input from industry, governments and the general public to ensure the Act continues to be effective and is delivering the best outcomes for business and the environment.

The Act helps reduce the environmental and health impacts of products by encouraging industries to improve the design and manufacture of their products, and to collect valuable or harmful materials for reuse or responsible disposal.

The NTCRS has recycled approximately 230,000 tonnes of electronic waste since it began. Updates are made to the Minister’s Product List each year, which is established by the Act.

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The department is also looking at making minor amendments to the NTCRS to take effect from July 1. These involve adjustments to conversion and scaling factors, numerical values used to estimate the weight of TVs and computers imported each year as well as possibly updating the product codes used to identify imports of the two.

The department will also develop a Product Impact Management Strategy to assist a shared approach to product stewardship by the Australian, state, territory and local governments and accrediting voluntary product stewardship arrangements.

The department is collating views from public consultations and other areas to develop its recommendations and findings. The findings will be provided to Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg by mid-2018. If it finds legislative changes are warranted, this will be undertaken in 2018-19 subject to the Minister’s agreement.

Public consultation forums in all state and territory capitals will be held from May 2017, with all industry stakeholders, including state, territory, local government, business and industry, non-governmental and community groups and general public invited to attend.

“Consultation with state, territory and local governments has indicated reservations about whether voluntary arrangements will deliver consistently good outcomes, and interest in using the accreditation process to strengthen voluntary product stewardship,” the paper says.

Four matters of improvement laid out on the report are as follows:

  • The extent to which the objects of the Act are being met and whether they remain appropriate.
  • The effectiveness of the accreditation of voluntary product stewardship schemes and the Minister’s annual product list in supporting product stewardship outcomes.
  • The operation and scope of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme.
  • The interaction of the Act with other Commonwealth, state and territory and local government legislation, policy and programs.
  • International and domestic experience in the use of product stewardship to deliver enhanced environmental, social and economic outcomes through product design, dissemination of new technologies and research and development.

“With regard to the use of the Minister’s annual product list to encourage action on product stewardship, the development of the Product Impact Management Strategy during the first half of 2018 will be significant.”

The department has also evaluated the NTCRS in terms of: appropriateness, efficiency, effectiveness and impact, sustainability, and improvement. Its recommendations included to improve its online platform PS Online, improve and formalise stakeholder engagement, prepare a communications strategy, with agreed roles, activities and outcomes to enable consistent messaging, increase oversight of the downstream flow of recycled products and more.

The Department will hold public consultation forums in all state and territory capitals from May 2018. All interested stakeholders, including state, territory and local government representatives, business and industry, non-governmental and community groups and the general public are encouraged to attend these forums.

Equilibrium Director of Communications John Gertsakis said the consultation paper was a positive opportunity to review and confirm adjustments required to the NTCRS, while further maximising the collection and recycling performance of electronics stewardship across Australia.

“The Product Stewardship Act is a unique policy instrument and has even greater potential to enable a circular economy through stronger attention to product durability, reuse, repair and remanufacturing,” Mr Gertsakis said.

“The review of the Product Stewardship Act provides an unmatched opportunity to further expand the scope of the products and materials it covers while also moving back up the supply chain to better address waste avoidance through good design, cleaner production and effective consumer awareness initiatives.”

Mr Gertsakis noted product stewardship is about more than end-of-life collection and recycling, and the review process can help focus future activity on more sustainable interventions across the product life cycle, including attention to product design, cleaner production and hyper-efficient logistics.

“It’s especially positive to see that the Australian Government has opened up the scheme for accreditation of voluntary product stewardship arrangements under the Act.

“This encourages other industries and programs to consider being formally recognised and is relevant to tyres, paint, toner cartridges, safety equipment, mattresses, handheld batteries, renewables technology, carpet and commercial furniture, textiles and apparel and more.”

You can read the document in full here, which includes information on how to provide submissions.