Following the release of the Product Stewardship Act review, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Federal Government to ensure a comprehensive national battery recycling program is in place, and funded by all battery brands by the end of 2020.
“More and more batteries are incorrectly ending up in rubbish and recycling bins, causing fires in collection trucks, processing facilities and landfills on a monthly if not weekly basis, putting lives at risk and causing environmental damage,” NWRIC CEO Rose Read said.
NWRIC has welcomed the long-awaited release of the Product Stewardship Act review and $20 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund.
“This is a very important piece of reform necessary to drive greater re-circulation of resources in the economy and less materials going to waste and harming the environment,” Read said.
“It is a strong and positive response from the Australian Government.”
In addition to developing a national battery recycling program, NWRIC is calling on the Federal Government to expand the NTCRS to include all products with a plug or battery as soon as possible.
“Many of today’s electrical and electronic appliances are made from a variety of plastics, metals and composite materials that potentially contain hazardous substances,” Read said.
“These need to be safely collected, transported and processed separately from kerbside recycling.”
Furthermore, Read said all current voluntary schemes for paint, tyres, printer cartridges, mattresses and agricultural chemical drums should become accredited under the Act by the end of 2020.
Read explained that this would create greater visibility on scheme performance, and ensure the exposure of free-riders.
“Transparent reporting and accountability are essential prerequisites when it comes to effective product stewardship and building consumer confidence,” she said.
Read added that funding for the development of new stewardship schemes or improvement of existing schemes must be conditional on that scheme either being accredited, or formally intending to be voluntarily accredited within 12 months of funding.
“Finally, the Federal Government, through its proposed revision of sustainable procurement guidelines, should preference organisations that are participants in a voluntary accredited or regulated product stewardship scheme over those that are not,” Read said.
“This is a fundamental requirement of any positive procurement process.”
Read highlighted that NWRIC has been actively advocating for product stewardship to drive the circular economy since the organisation was formed in 2017.
“Leading up to the 2019 federal election, the NWRIC called for the establishment of a National Waste Commissioner who would drive the implementation of the National Waste Policy Action Plan and Product Stewardship Act,” she said.
“The Federal Oil Product Stewardship scheme, the NTCRS, MobileMuster and NSW’s container deposit scheme are all excellent examples of how engaging businesses to take responsibility for their products can create better resource management, economic, social and environmental outcomes.”
NWRIC’s preference is for regulated product stewardship schemes, Read said, to ensure all businesses participate and are accountable for delivering agreed government and industry outcomes.
She added, however, that NWRIC considers the proposed changes to the priority product list and voluntary accreditation under the Act, together with funding, will go a long way to ensuring manufacturers, brands and retailers do not sidestep their stewardship responsibilities, and deliver meaningful outcomes transparently.
“The industry looks forward to working with the Commonwealth and businesses to develop and implement robust product stewardship schemes that deliver significant resource recovery and reuse outcomes necessary to achieve the National Waste Policy Targets,” Read said.