Yarra City Council: crushing contamination

Waste Management Review speaks with Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, about the council’s ongoing trial of kerbside glass separation.

In the beginning of June of this year, 1300 Abbottsford households were greeted with new crates for their glass waste.

The crates were delivered to the inner north suburb of Melbourne as part of a kerbside glass collection trial, developed by the Yarra City Council.

The problem of crushed glass and contamination has been discussed at length in the resource recovery sector. However, as Waste Management Review reported in May, government action on the issue has been slow.

With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Yarra City Council is attempting to buck this trend by taking tangible steps to reduce contamination in the densely populated municipality. Another motivating issue is the lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.

Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, says recycling rates across Yarra are high, with the majority of residents being active recyclers. Despite this, Chris says recent changes to the recycling industry have promoted a proactive response from the council in an attempt to get ahead of potential future problems.

“Recent challenges in the waste and recycling industry will have an impact on all councils. A reduction in recycling processing in Melbourne will see additional pressures on the remaining processors,” Chris says.

“Making sure we minimise the amount of waste we send to landfill and improve the quality of recycling will ensure we continue to have a sustainable waste collection service into the future.”

The Yarra trial will run for 12 months and builds on a successful 2018 food and garden organics (FOGO) separation trial.

“The initial FOGO trial provided extremely useful data and information about the collection process and user behaviour, and identified that Yarra residents were willing to trial new ways and methods for kerbside recycling,” Chris says.

“This was very heartening for us and encouraged us to combine FOGO and glass separation in a larger trial area.”

Chris says results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

The trial has been named the Yarra Waste Revolution and includes a targeted education and communications program.

“Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue for all councils, partly because, generally speaking, people do not have a good grasp on what is considered contamination when it comes to the kerbside recycling bin,” Chris says.

“We saw a great opportunity to make our recycled materials cleaner and more valuable, which ensures they get a new life, while also sending less waste to landfill.

“The improved quality of the material will lead to higher value, increased market demand, market diversity and the development of domestic markets for recycled products.”

According to Chris, public response to the trial has been positive, with most residents supportive of the new service and the city’s efforts to reduce waste sent to landfill.

“In only a few short weeks, there has already been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the material being presented in glass recycling bins,” he says.

“The Yarra Waste Revolution is a major change for residents, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the community in a very short amount of time.”

To implement the trial, Yarra City Council has enlisted the support of the state government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and the Alex Fraser Group.   

“Partnerships with industry and government agencies are critical to the success of this trial. We all need to work together to find solutions to the current recycling crisis,” Chris says.

“Our collection contractors, processors and industry partners share our vision to find solutions to the recycling crisis, and are helping us collect and sort the materials here in Victoria.”

Chris says research partners have also helped council understand the lifecycle analysis of the city’s new collection model, and what that will mean for environmental outcomes.

“We couldn’t implement a trial without their participation and of course, the financial and technical support provided by our government partners,” he says.

“We are actively seeking out opportunities to work with all levels of government, and the waste industry, to deliver on a new circular economy approach to waste management.”

Following the trial, Chris says Yarra will consider expanding the service throughout the city.

“We have had the courage to explore alternative methods and innovate in order to develop a more sustainable kerbside model that transitions away from the current system which relies heavily on export markets,” Chris says.

“Our long-term ambition is to move our community towards producing zero waste by supporting circular economies and minimising the amount of waste produced.”

Chris adds that making sure Yarra residents are confident in the sustainability of their waste and recycling service is key to achieving viable and environmental outcomes.

“We recognise the changes we are implementing at a local level require buy-in and commitment from our residents, but are confident that we have the support of our community, who are very focused on sustainability,” he says.

“Our Yarra Waste Revolution trial to separate glass and food and organic waste only started in June this year, and while it is a bit premature to provide solid data or analysis, the early signs are very positive.”

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Facing our waste

A campaign which aims to raise awareness about the amount of waste households produce in WA has been gaining attention throughout Australia.

It’s been featured on the War on Waste and the mainstream press and it was presented at this year’s Waste 2019 Conference.

Face Your Waste has reached two million households – an extraordinary result in a state of just over 2.5 million. The campaign allows households to volunteer as bin ambassadors and use a transparent bin.

Mindarie Regional Council (MRC), one of WA’s largest waste authorities in Perth’s north, devised Face Your Waste two years ago with a view to making its residents more conscious of the waste they were producing. The authority is responsible for member councils that include the cities of Joondalup, Perth, Stirling, Vincent and Wanneroo and the towns of Cambridge and Victoria Park.

Australians generated 13.8 million tonnes of core waste in 2017 (excluding hazardous waste, ash and landfill gas), according to the National Waste Report 2018. In the Perth metro area this was 539 kilograms per capita in 2016-17.

Face Your Waste was spawned off the back of a lack of awareness of what happens to our waste after it leaves the kerbside.

The idea was to confront residents with their waste and inspire better outcomes. Its aims are to reduce contamination, waste to landfill and most importantly, waste creation in the first place.

Face Your Waste provides practical tips on how to reduce/avoid waste as traditional campaigns talk a lot about dealing with waste better as opposed to not creating so much. It is also aiming to be relatable with a comedic campaign spokesperson “Famous Sharron”, who provides simple tips such as taking reusable bags to the store and favouring quality over quantity.

The message supports that of Own Your Impact, a WA Government initiative focused on inspiring Western Australians to take ownership of their waste.

Geoff Atkinson, Education Manager at MRC, says the campaign has exceeded expectations beyond what council could have imagined.

“It actually got tremendous traction within various aspects of the media and since then basically everyone in the Perth metropolitan area has seen the Face Your Waste message,” Geoff explains.

“We wanted to really capture people’s imagination and get them talking about their waste – a little bit different to other campaigns. While they’re important, it can be easy to gloss over the issue and think that’s someone else’s waste.”

The program was first rolled out in April last year at a variety of households over a two-week period, using its 20 clear bins. MRC’s feedback found that a standard bin cycle was not enough to make a change and soon moved to a complete month.

He says that initial tests showed the 240-litre bins were robust enough to withstand side lift and rear loader trucks. The success of the program has seen more than 350 bin ambassadors registered in the first six months.

Geoff says feedback has been overall positive. He says that anecdotally, people taking part in the trial are making conscious decisions to purchase differently.

“From what we gather with the research we’ve done, transparent bins haven’t been used anywhere else and it’s actually quite unique,” Geoff explains.

Although some residents are concerned about people knowing what’s in their bins, the concept is voluntary and therefore would not affect households that don’t want to participate. The program is not intended to penalise householders in any way but rather increase community engagement.

“We’re not looking to roll this out to all households on a permanent basis. I think it has a novelty factor about it. If everyone had clear bins I wonder if it would work as it would become normalised,” he says.

Anecdotally, the project has drawn attention to how much waste households produce each month.

“When you put your bins out, you don’t really know whether what your putting out is a normal amount or how it ranks in terms of what others put out. So with these bins you can make a comparison to your neighbours.”

He adds that this provides a benchmark for others to look to eliminate unnecessary waste while also potentially identifying contamination more easily.

“It provides a bit of community competition where they can share stories and exchange ideas and make decisions on how they can do it better,” Geoff says.

“Some people thought they were doing things right but then go to see what their bin looked like and realised they produced a lot of avoidable waste or recyclables.”

He says where they have been used at events, including business training, they have proved a useful tool in improving contamination education.

He says numerous other councils in Australia and New Zealand have expressed interest in replicating the concept. The idea might also be able to be linked to other initiatives such as food and garden organic rollouts or single-use plastic bag bans to encourage waste reduction.

“The broader idea behind this campaign is that it can reduce contamination and the amount of waste being produced in the first place. It’s putting it back to grassroots and taking ownership that can be dovetailed into other campaigns,” he says.

As to the project’s next steps? Geoff says that MRC will look to measure waste reduction outcomes and provide some data on the longevity of behavioural change.

“It’s important to know if people keep reducing their waste after reverting back to normal bins and it creates a pattern of behavioural change that allows people to keep doing the right thing afterwards.

“It’s not how much waste you’ve got in the bin, but how much you can reduce over time. If you’re producing a bin full because you have a number of people in the household, that is fine. It’s about taking steps to bring that amount down.”

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Modern Family

Green Industries SA’s latest education program seeks to heighten the state’s understanding of waste separation with a multi-pronged digital campaign.

Taking a modern approach to waste education is now more important than ever, with shifting international export markets placing greater significance on reducing contamination.

In the wake of these changes, the South Australian Government created a support package for local government and the recycling industry.

Vaughan Levitzke, Green Industries SA Chief Executive, says an educational kerbside separation campaign was highlighted as part of the package.

“We formed two groups under the package taskforce: one for procurement and one for education,” Vaughan says.

“The education group comprised mostly of councils, waste educators and companies that run material recovery facilities.”

Following engagement with the education group, Vaughan says Green Industries undertook market research with an estimated 1000 South Australian households.

According to Vaughan, the 2018 research examined current levels of contamination and separation knowledge in an attempt to understand information barriers.

“That research showed a clear preference for simple, consistent, state-wide messaging. Time and time again, householders remarked that they would recycle more, if they only knew which bin to use,” he says.

“I have to say, I have not been enamoured with the way we have traditionally conducted education programs.”

Vaughan says with Which Bin, Green Industries are approaching the public from multiple different mediums.

“I think that’s why the program has been successful,” he adds.   

Which Bin urges residents to consider what they put in household recycling and organics bins, with the aim of improving the quality of recyclables.

The campaign includes a series of episodic television ads, a linked social media campaign and an educational website.

The Which Bin website is designed to act as a centralised space, where residents can access waste information relevant to their respective council.

Vaughan says Green Industries’ previous engagement program was called Recycle Right. However, focus groups found citizens preferred the name Which Bin.

“The problem is that householders weren’t getting consistent information across councils, and the advice they were getting was often unclear,” Vaughan says.   

“People needed easy access to information about what different councils accept in each bin.”

Regulation information for all South Australian councils is available on the Which Bin website.

After a year of research, local South Australian advertising company Showpony were tasked with creating the campaign’s creative collateral.

“The ads are kind of like a sitcom, with links to the US comedy Modern Family,” Vaughan says.

Episode one of the four-part campaign introduces viewers to Vinnie and his family as they learn which bin to use and how to better recycle.

Four episodes have been produced so far, with titles such as “Vinnie embarrasses his daughter and recycles 10c containers for fun” and “Vinnie and Lucy recycle soft plastics … eventually”. When episodes end, viewers are directed to the Which Bin website.

Within the campaign’s first month, Vaughan says Green Industries saw significant traffic on the Which Bin website.

“Most people were accessing the site from mobile phones. The lesson being, if you’re going to do anything in the digital space, it has to be mobile-friendly,” he says.

“The social media campaign has blown us away through Facebook.”

According to Vaughan, within the campaign reached half a million people in its first month, which he says highlights the importance of a multi-pronged approach.

“Which Bin has its own Facebook page and in the first month we had more than 24,000 engagements on posts. It’s getting significant cut through,” Vaughan says.

Vaughan says as the campaign progresses, Green Industries will begin evaluating its effectiveness by checking bins.

“We are also planning more TV commercials, coming to air in the spring,” he says.

“Initial feedback from the public and the media has been very positive.”

A suite of resources for local government has also been developed, including calendars, bin stickers, signage, posters and customisable social media assets.

“All councils need to do is call our office and we can provide access to whatever the council wants to use,” Vaughan says.

The campaign is set to continue for at least three to four years.

“That’s the type of timeline you need to commit to with public education and awareness – I don’t see this going away,” he says.

“We needed a totally new approach and I think combining comedic television ads with an informative website has achieved that. Hopefully it bears fruit.”

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Electric vehicles hit the road

Waste Management Review talks to the stakeholders involved in trials of electric vehicles trucks to find out the challenges and opportunities behind the burgeoning technology.

In recent months, electric vehicle (EV) trials have been taking off with private waste management companies and councils across the country.

The City of Belmont, about eight kilometres east of the Perth CBD, was announced as the first site in WA for SUEZ’s fully EV truck.

Two months later, Cleanaway announced the first of two fully electric waste collection vehicles had begun kerbside collections in Victoria as part of a three-month trial.

Hobsons Bay at the time of writing had begun servicing households, while Mooney Valley had also planned to host the vehicle. Another trial in a council yet to be announced will also take place in WA.

The trial aims to ensure the vehicles will be tested across a variety of terrains and municipal settings.

As early as the 2018 Melbourne Waste Expo, WM Waste Management Services announced its plans to test three electric trucks with the City of Casey in Melbourne. These began over the past few months.

All EV-powered drive trains were fitted by SEA Electric with a Superior Pak body. In the City of Belmont, SEA Electric estimates the EVs will save around 35,000 litres of diesel each year and avoid around 90 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

The noise levels are significantly reduced and reportedly akin to a whisper. The EVs are also presumed to offer significantly reduced maintenance, operate for more than 150 kilometres uncharged and have zero emissions from the vehicle.

EVS ON-BOARDING

Cleanaway is working towards zero-emissions vehicles by powering its EVs with its own renewable sources of electricity generated in other parts of the business.

Cleanaway Head of Fleet Paul Young tells Waste Management Review the EVs conversation started with SEA Electric and Superior Pak around 12 months ago. Superior Pak supplied and electrified the chassis and provided the body.

“It ties very clearly into our company mission to make our operations as environmentally sustainable as possible,” Paul explains.

He says that by not waiting for an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solution, Cleanaway also identified an opportunity to be a market leader.

“We have a high level of inquiries mainly from our municipal customers around energy and being green so that is why we went down this path.

“We use the term trial, but the assets we’re building are starting the process. We’re not trialling and taking them out. They form part of our fleet like any other asset and we expect the asset to be operational like all other vehicles.”

Once the EVs have been tested by both SEA Electric and Superior Pak (SEA Electric tests the asset by running the vehicle for around 100 hours), they are sent off to the Cleanaway depot, where drivers undergo training by Superior Pak with SEA Electric.

SEA Electric continues to work with the drivers to optimise the vehicle for performance even as the driver is operating the vehicle.

Paul says the body operation is exactly the same as standard diesel vehicles with no changes to the mechanics of the operation.

He adds that another difference is that batteries will be replaced for longevity compared to engine rebuilds for diesel.

Paul says the noise reduction is significant. When it comes to wear and tear, the brakes are considered regenerative, lowering the number of brake pad changes required.

This means that during braking, rather than solely using the conventional brakes, the electric motor acts as a generator to provide a charge to the batteries. As well as providing a useful battery top up, Paul says this is expected to significantly reduce brake wear and subsequently repair and maintenance costs.

“While it is very early days, from a long-term cost perspective we see the benefit in reduced maintenance and fuel. However this will need to be monitored as the vehicle ages to verify the benefits.”

Paul says the vehicles are compliant with National Heavy Vehicle Law and other standard regulations.

While the batteries have added some weight to the vehicle, Paul says he expects this to shift over time.

For the time being, a minor compromise has been made on payload to gain the other benefits.

THE SETUP

Tony Fairweather, Group Managing Director at SEA Electric, says the entire power system is electrified.

This not only includes the battery and electric motor for direct drive to the existing differential, but all of the ancillaries such as air conditioning and heating for the cab, power steering, air compressor for braking and a 22-kilowatt on-board charger.

Tony says SEA Electric began developing the power system (known as SEA-Drive) around 2013.

He says that the company waited for the price of batteries to drop below USD 300 per kilowatt hour (kWh) before coming to market in early 2017.

Tony says that other than OEM chassis selection by the customer, most vehicles deployed to the various councils are largely similar in power system design and performance.

“In the three-axle rigid segment, we commenced with a 180kWh battery pack. However, due to the evolution of batteries and volume over time, our supplier is now able to offer 216kWh in the same size battery pack, which will increase further in the near term.”

He says the electric motor offers around 3500 newton metres of torque and 350kW of power. The vehicles charge in about eight hours (using the on-board charger), but have the ability to charge with (up to) 120kW DC charger and permit about 3500 charge cycles with a 10-year lifespan.

“We run about 700 kilograms heavier than the original tare weight of the internal combustion engine cab chassis which is around five to six per cent heavier. However as the battery density increases, this will reduce over time.”

The trucks are all fitted with an onboard charger, as this segment will typically require a duty cycle to be completed on a single charge, before returning to base to charge with a standard three-phase, 32A power point.

Tony says the vehicles charge during off-peak energy periods in the evening, which is cost-effective for operators, with the option of deriving their energy from non-renewable sources in the grid.

He says that now that the EVs have been tested, the next step is educating buyers who may be apprehensive. Tony notes that in California, buyers are offered up to $165,000 rebate to purchase an electric refuse truck while New York, Texas and Florida are expected to take on similar programs.

He says that given the duty cycle and relatively low kilometres of refuse vehicles, the business case is a no brainer for those in the metropolitan region, with a payback period of about four years without incentives.

He says there is also no risk of battery fires in the electric EVs as the batteries are large and operate at much lower temperatures than smaller EV batteries.

Tony says the next steps are also to work towards increasing government support. He says that Heavy Vehicle National Law regulations around gradeability and noise need to be updated to ensure that EVs don’t have to go to the mainly irrelevant process of complying with Vehicle Standards Bulletin 6 (VSB6).

Michael Strickland, WM Waste Management Services Project Manager, says that the provision of EVs in its service proved an important factor to winning a tender with the City of Casey.

The company currently has three EV compactor trucks as part of its newly acquired contract. It is looking at additional EVs in single axle and has already seen the benefits firsthand of reduced noise.

He says the vehicle uses a lot of power when picking up high speed on the freeway, so it’s about minimising travel time.

While it is still early days for the EV trial, Michael says a few issues are still being ironed out.

“Part of the issue is the trucks were modified and weren’t from the factory floor and with the EV factor, the floor truck had difficulty registering as there are a lot of different design rules,” Michael says.

Michael says initial computer teething issues have been sorted, although the company is getting around 140 kilometres of trips before a charge is needed. To ensure the collection run goes smoothly, start and finish crews work around this, ensuring WM Waste Management Services is able to get two runs a day.

BARRIERS TO ENTRY

A Senate select committee released recommendations earlier this year into increasing the uptake of EVs in the car, truck and bus sector. Some of the recommendations included that the Federal Government develop a national EV strategy to accelerate uptake and manage the risk and transitions of the vehicles.

Dr Peter Hart, former Chairman of Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association, welcomes the shift to electrification but is yet to be convinced of their effectiveness in refuse applications.

“The amount of energy you can store in one litre of battery is still only a fraction to that that can be stored in one litre of diesel fuel, so EVs will be advantageous where energy can be scavenged,” Peter says.

“I think lithium battery technology is advancing rapidly and energy density will continue to increase.

“There are safety issues you run into if you try and get too much energy into a given space. At present, technical standards do not adequately require protection against signs of internal battery degradation.”

He says like any new technology, the EVs will require trial and error to ensure the systems integrate.

“The key success factor for EVs in the waste industry will be to recover more than 50 per cent of the energy used to accelerate the truck from one pick-up point to the next, and to lift the bin. If this can be achieved, the range problem will be solved and the economics will be favourable.”

Charging points will also need to be kept out of the weather to prevent safety risks.

“If you went back a few years, everyone was interested in EVs for long distance haulage, but the reality is we can’t store enough energy so people are now interested in hydrogen fuel cells. In the metropolitan area around deliveries I think EVs will have a significant advantage.”

He says that battery fires are a risk. Lithium ion batteries should be charged using a battery management system that varies the charging voltage to individual cells to avoid over-charging. Peter says that EV trucks must have a well-designed battery management system.

Peter’s call to action is for the development of national (and international) standards that define good practice. He hopes the outcome of trials of EVs in the waste industry will be successful.

Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith says that those businesses who are testing and piloting EVs are also testing and piloting the re-sell value of these vehicles.

Mark says that as Australians see cheaper power provided to the national grid, EVs will effectively offer a competitive alternative to diesel and even beat the running costs for standard vehicles in urban/inner city environments.

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Reviewing the PSA

Waste Management Review explores the Product Stewardship Act review and industry expectations for the final report. 

Since the Federal Government Product Stewardship Act (PSA) was introduced in 2011, the dynamics of the waste and recycling sector have changed dramatically locally and overseas.

Waste management and resource recovery businesses have been forced to adapt and so has legislation and state and territory policy.

Product stewardship is a waste management strategy designed to ensure shared responsibility for the health and environmental impacts of a product through all stages of its lifecycle.

The PSA outlines three levels of regulation: mandatory, co-regulatory – joint industry and government delivery and voluntary.

There are currently no mandatory schemes under the PSA and just one co-regulatory scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).

When the act commenced, two voluntary schemes were accredited, MobileMuster and Flurocycle. MobileMuster has recently renewed its accreditation for a further five years.

Outside of the act there are a number of industry-run national product stewardship schemes with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval including Paintback, Tyre Stewardship Australia and DrumMUSTER.

The act was required to be reviewed by the Department of the Environment and Energy five years after commencement and in 2017 that time came. Waste Management Review talks to industry stakeholders about gaps in the present scheme and the potential for improvement.

THE REVIEW

Following submissions from interested parties, the Department of Environment and Energy’s official consultation paper, released in March 2018, outlined five areas of reference.

First, the review would attempt to assess the extent to which the PSA’s objectives were being met and whether they remained relevant. Second, it would address the effectiveness of voluntary scheme accreditation and the minister’s annual product list, followed by an evaluation of the operation and scope of the NTCRS.

Additionally, the paper highlights an assessment of how the PSA interacts with other federal, state and territory policies and how international and domestic experiences of product stewardship could inform more effective legislation.

“If the review finds legislative changes are warranted, work to implement the changes, including refinement of options, regulatory impact analysis and development of regulatory amendments would be undertaken in 2018-19, subject to the minister’s agreement,” the paper reads.

According to National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read, problems stem not from the legislation, but from a lack of federal and departmental leadership.

“The lack of leadership in implementing the act has resulted in five, and soon to be seven, different container deposit schemes rather than a single national policy – plus inconsistent state bans on plastic shopping bags,” Rose says.

“The failure to address these two product groups at a national level under the PSA has increased implementation and compliance costs for all involved governments, producers, retailers and service providers.”

Additionally, Rose says government has provided little encouragement to companies seeking accreditation or promotion of existing schemes.

“The continued belief by the previous Federal Government that schemes should be voluntary reflects a lack of commitment or understanding of what is required to deliver an effective product stewardship scheme,” Rose says.

“Very few industries can implement these schemes without some basic regulation to ensure a level playing field for these companies.”

Rose says following the review, the NWRIC would like to see amendments to voluntary clauses, to enable a clearer pathway to accreditation. She adds the NWRIC would also like to see more government support and promotion for participating organisations. Rose hopes the Federal Government’s $20 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund will be adequately resourced to put appropriate regulatory frameworks in place.

TELEVISION AND COMPUTERS

The NTCRS was established alongside the PSA in 2011, with the aim of granting households and small businesses access to free industry-funded collection and recycling services.

According to Rose, over 94 per cent of importers contribute to the program, which covers more than 140 companies. She adds the collection rate for televisions and computers has jumped from 18 per cent in 2011 to over 62 per cent in 2018 as a result of the scheme.

“The companies involved in the program are investing an estimated $25 million a year to provide this service,” Rose says.

“On average, around 35 million products within the scope of the scheme are imported each year. That translates to an estimated average cost of $0.70 per unit imported.”

In 2017, the government engaged the Australian Continuous Improvement Group to undertake an evaluation of the NTCRS. It was designed to inform the official statutory review, and at the time of print, is the only published outcome.

The evaluation deemed the scheme largely efficient, but raised concerns over industry pricing and scaling factors.

“NTCRS was designed to allow multiple co-regulatory arrangements, so liable parties and recyclers are able to shop around for the best commercial deal,” the evaluation reads.

“In the opinion of stakeholders, prices have dropped, at least partially, as a result – raising concerns that services and standards are being compromised, particularly when it comes to downstream services.”

Ewaste Watch director and co-founder John Gertsakis says the NTCRS, which has recycled approximately 230,000 tonnes of electronic waste since it began, is one of the more successful elements of the PSA.

John says while the scheme is successful, there is still significant scope for improvement in the areas of community awareness and education, improved access in regional areas, and better collaboration between the co-regulatory arrangements.

According to John, several stakeholders have asked for the NTCRS to be expanded to include batteries and a range of additional electronic products.

“The community is absolutely ready for effective regulation where there are no industry funded schemes,” he says.

“The solution for batteries, in my opinion, is a regulated scheme under the PSA.”

Rose and the NWRIC agree and have called for a regulated scheme for batteries by 2020.

“The NWRIC would like to see the scope of the NTCRS broadened to include all products with a cord or battery, consistent with the recent Victorian e-waste ban and a separate regulation for batteries,” Rose says.

John suggests the NTCRS could be also be useful mechanism for sustainable solar photovoltaic panel (PV) management.

In 2016 PV systems were added to the PSA’s priority list, meaning they were being considered for scheme design. Sustainability Victoria is conducting research into the viability of a system of shared responsibility.

Sustainability Victoria’s Director of Resource Recovery Matt Genever says work on assessing stewardship options for PV systems is well underway.

“We’ve consulted broadly across industry and government and there is genuine support for a stewardship approach that will build a sustainable PV recycling market in Australia,” Matt says.

Matt says that the delays in reviewing the PSA by the Federal Government have caused some issues.

“This is an area of waste policy that absolutely needs strong leadership from the Commonwealth, as it can’t just work on a state-by-state basis. Product stewardship is one of the few areas that has national legislation and it’s clear that in its current state, the act isn’t delivering to its full potential.”

BATTERIES

Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) CEO Libby Chaplin highlights independent research that shows a voluntary scheme with light regulation to address free riders would be the most effective and viable option for batteries.

According to Libby, a proposed battery stewardship scheme is currently out for public consultation. She adds that in December 2018 all state, territory and federal ministers agreed all batteries must be included in the proposed scheme.

“We are keen to see a rapid improvement of this unacceptably low battery collection rate and have proposed a different approach to other schemes,” Libby says.

Libby says BSC’s proposal would run on an importer levy of four cents per equivalent battery (24 grams) and leverage existing collection channels.

“We are working on a rebate model, whereby members commit to a number of quality, environmental and safety requirements and then eligible for scheme funded rebates,” she says.

“This approach will now be the focus of consultation beyond BSC members, with an application for Australian Competition and Consumer Commission authorisation scheduled later this year.”

Libby says that establishing a battery stewardship scheme is essential, whether voluntary or regulated.

PRIORITY PRODUCTS

One of the PSA’s key devices is the annual product list, which outlines goods that might come up for scheme consideration the following year.

According to the PSA review consultation paper, publishing the list serves two purposes. First, it provides certainty to community and the business sector about what is being considered for coverage. Second, the act requires a 12-month notification for a class of products to be considered for accreditation or regulation.

Despite this, the list provides no promise of action and while the PSA requires an explanation of why a product has been added, it does not require an explanation for why a product has been removed.

Soft Landing Mattress Product Stewardship General Manager Janelle Wallace says the accreditation process is a good concept. However, she doesn’t believe it has been well marketed.

Janelle says the act doesn’t acknowledge the costs to local government of managing more complex and often hazardous waste streams, including mattresses, at landfill.

Soft Landing’s submission to the review made multiple recommendations, including a greater focus on durability during product design and wider consideration for the extended supply chain, from raw materials to consumers.

According to Janelle, Soft Landing would also like to see more consideration of bulky and inconvenient waste.

As a voluntary scheme, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has committed $4 million towards market development initiatives. It performs an accreditation and compliance program which focuses on the verification of the scheme across its 1700 participants. However TSA CEO Lina Goodman believes there needs to be more intervention from government.

“Whilst TSA has made significant in-roads within its verification, accreditation and market development programs, the heavy lifting associated with waste tyres remains in the hands of eight tyre importers,” Lina says.

She says the scheme can go only so far without government support or intervention, encouraging government to consider addressing the issue of free riders.

“The time is now for regulatory intervention that will address free riders. Some tyre importers are enjoying the benefits of the scheme without taking responsibility for the product they distribute to market.”

She says that this will have a positive impact and assist in switching the focus on local innovation that will drive greater consumption of material for domestically engineered products.

When speaking with Waste Management Review, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan called the current PSA a “toothless tiger”.

“There are not enough schemes in operation and developing models for products such as batteries takes far too long,” Gayle says.

“The Federal Government needs to step up, lean in and drive change – there is a lot of opportunity to improve.”

Gayle says an issue with the current PSA is a lack of extended producer responsibility. She adds the system places problematic waste accountability squarely on the resource recovery industry.

“When a product enters the market, it needs to be recyclable, repairable or reusable,” Gayle says.

“Anything that doesn’t fall within those definitions via readily available structures needs its own source separation system, which needs to be funded by those who brought it to market.”

Additionally, Gayle says there needs to be a complete paradigm shift on voluntary schemes.

“The industry needs to be really honest with itself about what is working and what isn’t. Structural change will not occur by funding individual organisations.”

Equilibrium conducted an analysis of the cost of mandatory product stewardship schemes on consumers for the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The analysis made approximations based on standard product unit types and estimated that mandatory schemes would cost consumers up to $1.85 for e-waste, $16.50 for mattresses and $4.00 for tyres.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel says the new data shows consumers can recycle products and items affordably.

“In all cases, the cost of recycling these items is likely to be lower than two per cent of their consumer price. Therefore, cost concerns should not be a key barrier to action by our policy-makers,” he says.

Brooke Donnelly, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO, says the Product Stewardship Act review is an important and timely piece of work, and APCO supports the Federal Government’s efforts. Brooke says APCO believes all organisations must ultimately take responsibility for the products they create. However, there are a range of ways these systems can be delivered.

“To move forward, we need to take an agile approach that explores a range of alternative models that are best suited to fix specific material/product challenges and the external environment in which they operate,” Brooke says.

“We must look beyond the populist rhetoric and really test the value and impact various approaches can provide in a systemic and considered way. Fundamental to effective product stewardship is to ensure equality, accountability and transparency across the various approaches.”

THE MINISTER’S PERSPECTIVE

Drawing on his experience as President of the National Retail Association, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans says industry is best placed to understand the complexities of product stewardship.

When asked by Waste Management Review whether government was in a position to reveal whether it was looking into developing more mandatory schemes, Trevor said not yet.

“There is always a debate around the nature of the scheme, in terms of whether they are industry-led, voluntary or mandatory. It is very much a ‘horses for courses’ approach,” Trevor says.

“Mandatory schemes are one option, but they are not the only policy tool that government has in its arsenal.”

Trevor says the final report with recommendations is expected to be presented to the meeting of environment ministers towards the end of the year.

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