For product stewardship to achieve a national reach, it needs a transport and logistics model that supports critical mass and economic scale. Ecycle Solutions’ Chris Tangey explains.
In October 2020, Ecycle Solutions released its Annual Report, highlighting a 64.87 per cent increase in kilograms of ewaste collected compared to the last financial year.
The report, a requirement of Ecycle Solutions’ government approved co-regulatory status under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS), also showed a 600 per cent increase in volumes recycled in the past six years, with 100 per cent reasonable access to an Ecycle Solutions collection location achieved.
Working under the NTCRS product stewardship scheme, Ecycle Solutions provides the public with a recycling solution for their end-of-life televisions and computers. Through reverse logistics plus low overhead and operating costs, Ecycle Solutions has a competitive advantage which is passed onto its customers.
Through a free drop-off service at participating retailers, including Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, Betta Home Living and Bi-Rite, customers can be confident that their end-of-life televisions and computers are being effectively recycled.
“Ecycle Solutions’ mission is to build a long term diversified, commercially viable and sustainable recycling business by leveraging off the key strengths of the QLS Group,” Chris Tangey, Ecycle Solutions’ General Manager says.
He explains that QLS Group, Ecycle Solutions’ parent company, is a national transport business that regularly visits metropolitan, regional and country retail stores throughout Australia. With over 100 trucks delivering products across Australia every day, Tangey says it made sense to offer an easy, low-cost waste collection solution.
When QLS Group drivers deliver new white and brown good to retail stores, they collect purpose-built ewaste bins full of end-of-life televisions and computers. These are then recycled through Ecycle Solutions’ specialist ewaste recyclers. This ultimately functions as a reverse logistics network, facilitating a sustainable closed loop product stewardship system.
Tangey explains that given the logistical expense, many product stewardship approaches focus on metro and inner regional areas at the exclusion of outer regional & remote Australia.
“The reason the NTCRS works so well is because there is a requirement in the legislation that the co-regulators of the scheme have to go to even the most remote locations – places like Thursday Island and Port Hedland – and service them at least once every two years,” Tangey says.
He points to the new industry led, voluntary battery product stewardship scheme as a potential candidate for this reverse logistics model. Currently, there are 900 million equivalent battery units imported into Australia every year, with less than 4 per cent recycled.
“Batteries are perfect for product stewardship, and I commend the Battery Stewardship Council for being able to get this scheme up and running. But there’s only one or two battery recyclers in Australia, so you must transport the products to Melbourne for recycling,” Tangey says.
“If you are relying on anything other than reverse logistics. If you want to get critical mass and recycle as many batteries as possible, reverse logistics is key.”
In addition to its ewaste recycling, Ecycle Solutions operates an expanded polystyrene (EPS) collection and recycling program. Tangey explains that the material is a lightweight and economical packaging material that offers excellent protection and insulation.
In the National Plastics Plan, released this March, the Federal Government has proposed phasing out the use of EPS consumer packaging from July 2022.
While Tangey is supportive of waste reduction efforts, he says it is unreasonable to believe that multi-national electronics companies are going to change their production lines for Australia. He adds that in addition to EPS’ material qualities when used to protect items during shipment, the material has high commodity value when it is recycled.
As such, in conjunction with EPSA and the Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association, Ecycle Solutions is working on a potential product stewardship scheme for EPS.
“EPS can’t just be phased out, we need an alternative whereby the waste generators pay a levy because their product in packaged with EPS. This will then remove the cost of collection and recycling from households, councils and retailers,” Tangey says.
“This will also require a reverse logistics model if it’s going to be successful, because sending trucks out to collect the waste and bring it back to a recycling facility will be too expensive. But because we already have a reverse logistics model in place, it would be an extension of what we currently do.”
While the EPS scheme is still in its planning phase, Tangey is optimistic that given the success of Ecycle Solutions’ reverse logistics model under the NTCRS, it has significant potential.