Waste Management In Action

Reverse logistics ewaste: Ecycle Solutions

Ecycle Solutions is helping businesses reduce their waste to landfill rate through innovative ewaste collection, recycling and disposal services.

Millions of electronic devices such as televisions and computers are discarded in Australia every year, with ewaste now the fastest-growing waste stream in the country.

Established in 2011, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) provides Australian households and small businesses with access to free industry-funded collection and recycling services.

According to Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions, the NTCRS is properly designed and works well mechanically.

He adds that it has regulations that demand compliance and prescribe penalties for non-compliance.

“All stakeholders signed off with a positive assessment for the continuation and expansion of the scheme during the 2018 Statutory Review,” Tangey says.

More than 1800 collection services have been made available to the public since 2011, with over 290,000 tonnes ewaste collected and recycled.

The scheme is operated by four government-approved Co-Regulators on behalf of industry, including Ecycle Solutions.

Ecycle Solutions collects end-of-life ewaste via free drop-off and collection points at participating retail stores such as Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and Radio Rentals.

Since its launch in 2013, Ecycle Solutions’ ewaste service has grown significantly. The company now works with over 300 manufacturers and retailers, and in 2019, collected over 11,000 tonnes of ewaste.

According to Tangey, the NTCRS requires all importers of electronic goods into Australia to recycle 66 per cent of the mass they bring in.

Beginning at 30 per cent in 2011, Tangey say the recycling rate increases by two per cent each year. He adds that the rate is capped at 80 per cent due to a belief recycling beyond that level is challenging.

At the heart of the Ecycle Solutions’ system is parent company QLS Logistics, a national transport company that regularly visiting metropolitan, regional and country retail stores throughout Australia.

“As NTCRS partners, when QLS drivers deliver new white and brown goods to retail stores, they collect purpose-built ewaste bins full of end-of-life televisions and computers, which are then recycled,” Tangey says.

“This ultimately functions as a reverse logistics network, facilitating a sustainable closed loop system.”

Under the scheme, Co-Regulators such as Ecycle Solutions are required to provide reasonable access for the general public to recycle their ewaste, with approximately 300 collection points across Australia.

Tangey says in metro areas such as Melbourne and Sydney, reasonable access equates to one collection point per 250,000 people. He adds that in Melbourne, that equates to a minimum of 17 collection points.

“When a member of the public or a small business visits one of our participating retailers they can drop their goods off free-of-charge, and are not required to buy anything.

“We audit those sites each year to ensure they are providing a compliant, accessible and streamlined service.”

Once collected by Ecycle Solutions, the ewaste is sent to third party specialist ewaste recyclers where greater than 90 per cent become reusable materials.

Ecycle Solutions use 10 recyclers in total, with four located in NSW and Victoria respectively, and another three across Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia.

“We tend to aim at small-to-medium recyclers, which are often family run businesses. They are all accredited and audited to ensure they comply with all relevant regulations,” Tangey explains.

As the sole co-regulated product stewardship scheme, the NTCRS stands out within the wider product stewardship ecosystem. The scheme is effective, Tangey says, because of its extended producer responsibility focus.

“If a company is importing a future waste material into the country, they have to pay for that waste to be dealt with. That is why the scheme is so successful, as often times people need a regulatory push to transition to more sustainable practices,” he says.

As the industry continues to wait on the Federal Government’s Product Stewardship Act Review, Tangey says he would like to see the NTCRS expanded to include more products such as batteries and photovoltaic solar panels.

“We need to expand the scheme so that more waste is regulated, and resource recovery rates grow,” he says.

“The NTCRS is really starting to close the loop in Australia, with more commodities such as metals, plastics and motherboards recycled onshore.

“It’s a great example of resource recovery in action, one that would benefit from an expanded material focus.”

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