Best practice product stewardship: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Best practice product stewardship: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Waste Management Review speaks with Lina Goodman, Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO, about the Scheme’s recent Federal accreditation under new Recycling and Waste Reduction legislation.

In late March, the Federal Government launched its highly anticipated Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence at Parliament House.

The Centre – a key recommendation in last year’s Product Stewardship Act 2011 review – aims for the wide-scale adoption of product and material stewardship principals by businesses to reduce waste generation and create positive environmental and social outcomes.

At the launch, Centre of Excellence Director Rose Read said the Federal Government was showing “immense leadership” in fostering and supporting product stewardship and supporting businesses to thrive and do more.

“The Centre will also work closely with existing product stewardship schemes and initiatives, to help them address free rider issues, logistics challenges, generate greater consumer engagement and foster best practice,” Read said.

One such scheme is Tyre Stewardship Australia’s (TSA) National Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, which was recognised as best practice product stewardship at the Centre launch, receiving voluntary accreditation under new Recycling and Waste Reduction legislation.

According to Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans, voluntary accreditation demonstrates an industry’s commitment to sustainability, and gives the public confidence that industry is working to reduce any negative impact of their products.

“In the near future, consumers will be able to look out for the Federal Government tick of approval for accredited product stewardship schemes on packaging and products,” he said.

Lina Goodman, TSA CEO, welcomed the announcement by Evans and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, saying it would provide confidence to consumers and industry that the Scheme’s positive environmental and human health outcomes had been independently verified.

TSA has been a voluntary scheme since its inception in 2013, however, Goodman explains that a voluntary scheme can only go so far.

“There has been no hiding the fact that TSA have been canvassing for regulatory support for a long time. TSA believes that only through regulation can the organisation make a real impact. This Government accreditation arrangement gives TSA a chance to kick this process off,” Goodman says.

“We’re really pleased to have been given the Federal Government’s stamp of approval for the Scheme under the new Recycling and Waste Reduction legislation. It will help drive stronger procurement policies, so more Australians view the waste we create as the valuable resource it is.”

The accreditation was further bolstered by significant funding to increase resource recovery associated with the off-the-road sector and expanding the National Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme to include conveyor belts.

“It is an important funding opportunity as limited work has been done in this sector with only approximately two per cent of mining tyres being put to productive outcomes,” Goodman says.

An estimated 98 per cent of mining tyres disposed in Australia are either buried on site, landfilled or stockpiled.

“The funding will support TSA to investigate and assess options for regional and remote, recovery and disposal costs, reverse logistics options, market opportunities, stakeholder mapping and the impact of state regulations on increased recycling,” Goodman explains.

She adds that the inclusion of conveyor belts in the Scheme is significant, as there is currently no data, no recovery rates and no end markets.

“There is no organisation really recovering conveyor belts to any great length in Australia,” Goodman says.

“It is complicated; conveyor belts are difficult to handle, difficult to transport, difficult to manage. Take in the added component of the belt being end-of life and coming from a mining site.

“TSA aims to verify the data associated with conveyor belts, establish a recovery pathway to enable the commencement and recycling of the OTR related products and improve the recovery rate of these products.”

ACCREDITATION AND COMPLIANCE

Australia generates the equivalent of 56 million end-of-life passenger tyres annually. While 72 per cent are re-used, recycled or upcycled, 28 per cent of the volume is still disposed to landfill, buried or stockpiled.

The mismanagement of end-of-life-tyres causes stockpiles, illegal dumping or burial in agricultural lands, all of which can lead to possible fires and a significant risk to human and environmental health.

“TSA’s mission is to deliver against circular economy principles, ensuring the lifecycle of tyres is maximised, the residual waste product is valuable, and the entire supply chain works cohesively to contribute to better sustainable outcomes,” Goodman says.

“In the eight years since the voluntary Scheme’s inception, we now have more than 1700 participants from across the tyre supply chain including retailers, manufacturers, auto-brands, recyclers and collectors.”

Federal accreditation, Goodman adds, represents official recognition of all the hard work TSA has done, and will continue to do.

Through its globally admired Market Development initiative, for example, TSA has committed more than $6 million nationally to find innovative and entrepreneurial ways to manage the used tyres generated in Australia for greater productive outcomes.

TSA’s Foreign End Market Verification Program has produced similarly successful results, and aims to ensure used tyres and tyre derived products that leave Australia for reprocessing overseas do not cause environmental or social harm.

The program runs in association with Intertek, a global total quality assurance organisation with over 130-years’ experience, with the two organisations working together to identify high risk destinations.

Since the program launched, TSA has completed 16 audits of locations in India, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand, including online self-assessment questionaries and face-to-face audits via Intertek.

“Our Foreign End Market verification program is the only global platform aimed at verifying that Australian-generated end-of-life-tyres are not causing environmental or social harm at their final destination,” Goodman says.

The Scheme has also formed global partnerships with IRSG and GPSNR, and in 2020 set up its Sustainable Outcomes Indicator to provide a pathway for improved resource recovery for used tyres.

“To support the COAG announcement and encourage organisations to consider change, TSA implemented the Sustainable Outcomes Indicator, an easy reckoner for the public to help navigate best recycling efforts,” Goodman says.

The Sustainable Outcomes Indicator also provides recyclers and collectors an opportunity to aspire to better sustainable outcomes.

“But, while there is an incredible amount of goodwill, the government’s accreditation will allow us to do more to address the issue of what I call ‘free riders’ – those organisations currently selling tyres into the Australian market, but not taking responsibility for them,” Goodman says.

These companies, she explains, have been enjoying all the benefits of what TSA has to offer without contributing to the solution.

Getting free riders on board and encouraging operators to use licensed, accredited recyclers will allow TSA to expediate important market development work, while ensuring unscrupulous operators cannot access used tyres from retailers.

“The recent Recycling and Waste Reduction legislation means while the government is making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes, they also have new tools to intervene and regulate when companies aren’t doing the right thing – including ‘naming and shaming’ those not participating in the Scheme,” Goodman says.

In the next five to 10 years, Goodman sees TSA increasing used tyre recovery and end markets across all sectors – passenger cars, trucks, aviation and OTR including mining conveyor belts.

She also predicts that TSA will continue to provide the market with appropriate, accurate and up-to-date data, while contributing to the development of best-practice policies, procedures and modelling, so the sector can understand the true cost of recycling.

Australia will also have a retail sector that is truly accountable for the tyres it is selling, and all relevant stakeholders will be participating in the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme.

While these are perhaps lofty goals, given TSA’s progress in its just eight years of existence, Goodman and her team see them as readily achievable.

“There will be no more unscrupulous operators playing havoc with the recycling market, and the public will understand the value of working with accredited recyclers and retailers even if this means at times the cost is higher to ensure the sustainable outcome is achieved,” Goodman says.

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