A program to recover and recycle old, unwanted and potentially unsafe child car safety seats will take a major step forward with a grant from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.
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Environment Minister Sussan Ley says she intents to add child car seats the Product Stewardship Act Priority List, following the establishment of a new stewardship scheme for the product.
The new scheme will work to provide convenient solutions for old, unwanted and potentially unsafe child car seat disposal.
“More than 1,400,000 new child car seats are sold annually in Australia,” Ms Ley said.
“The Memorandum of Understanding signed today (13 November) sees car seat manufacturers, retailers and motoring associations coming together for the first time to adopt the SeatCare program, which makes it easy for parents and families to dispose of old and potentially dangerous child safety seats for recycling.”
The industry led scheme is being co-designed and built by sustainability and environmental management consultants Equilibrium.
According to an Equilibrium statement, there is currently no Australian program to support the take-back of old child car safety seats.
“Simultaneously, there is a growing public expectation that producers and retailers are well placed to demonstrate their corporate social and environmental responsibility in a very practical manner,” the statement reads.
“As a result, SeatCare is a timely solution that will address both safety and environmental objectives in a practical way.”
Based on the 10-year recommended maximum life span of child car safety seats, national birth-rates, estimated changeover rate of units per child and per family, trials have found that up to one million child car safety seats can potentially be captured and removed from the market per year.
Equilibrium ran a trial in 2017 throughout Queensland, NSW and Victoria, which according to the statement, successfully collected 1921 seats for recovery and recycling and diverted 10,342 kilograms of material including plastic and steel from landfill.
“It is estimated that over 200,000 child car seats are disposed of every year, with the majority being sent to landfill,” the statement reads.
“This is despite the fact that over 80 per cent of child car safety seats can be recycled once dismantled. A product with such a significant percentage of recyclable material should be considered a valuable resource that is wasted when sent to landfill.”
Equilibrium General Manager Damien Wigley said SeatCare will provide a unique community service that can improve road safety while also reducing waste to landfill.
“SeatCare is an excellent example of how manufacturers, auto associations, safety advocates and environmental specialists can create positive waste reduction programs that meet consumer expectations,” Mr Wigley said.
“SeatCare demonstrates how voluntary approaches to product stewardship can be achieved in a timely and outcome-oriented way. Multi-stakeholder involvement from the outset is the key to such programs, as is equitable co-funding, transparency and environmental sound processes.”
Once established, SeatCare intends to progressively roll out collection sites in mid-2020, with an initial target of 25 locations.
“As the program expands, this number will grow and potentially could build to around 60 collection sites in both metropolitan and regional areas, and involve a number of accredited dismantling organisations and plastic and metal recyclers,” the statement reads.
SeatCare will accept:
Rear facing carriers
Forward facing seats
Car seat and carrier frames
Car seat and carrier strapping
Items that attach directly to the seat or carrier supported by the manufacturer
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Photovoltaic (PV) panels and associated products and equipment have been identified as a rapidly growing e-waste stream in the future. For the project, “PV systems” have neem defined to include panels and PV system accessories such as inverter equipment and energy storage systems.
Equilibrium has opened an online survey to gather input and information form manufacturers, installers, project developers, the energy industry, and peak bodies.
The information gathered by the survey along with other evidence gathered will support the assessment of potential options.
Organisations and individuals interested in the project can complete the survey here.
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Equilibrium has developed a tool with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to assist local councils and kerbside service operators to assess changes to contracts.
The methodology comes off the back of China’s National Sword policy, which has spurred on numerous contract renegotiations across Australia. It is intended to act as a guide that councils and others can use to suit their particular circumstances and requirements, rather than being prescriptive. It includes examples, instructions and indicative responses aiming to make it simple to use.
MWRRG developed the tool in consultation with councils, industry groups, materials recovery facility operators and other states.
MWRRG is using the system with Victorian Councils, and it has been widely circulated to all states, major recyclers and industry groups. The methodology assists parties involved in kerbside recycling arrangements to make informed decisions on ongoing arrangements based on principles of accountability, transparency and reasonableness when negotiating and agreeing to service arrangements.
It sets out the principles of kerbside recycling, considerations for assessing kerbside recycling service arrangements, commodity price indices, factors and calculations to inform financial considerations and monitoring and verification of agreements.
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Equilibrium Managing Director Nick Harford said the current issues surrounding contract stability have highlighted that the community wants and supports kerbside recycling. He said it is incumbent on the waste industry to ensure services are sustainable.
“The current situation with kerbside recycling has motivated an update of kerbside arrangements by some materials recovery facility (MRF) operators and collectors, as they have expressed concerns about meeting current contractual obligations. In Victoria, there is a requirement for councils to update arrangements with MRF operators in order to be able to access the state government financial support,” Mr Harford said.
The tool calculates the market commodity prices for materials such as mixed paper, paper grade, cardboard grade, mixed grade, PET plastic, HDPE plastic, aluminium, steel and glass. In addition, it shows the percentage of total materials in kerbside by weight and the average tonnes processed per annum. Operating expenditure is divided into labour, repair and maintenance, consumables, waste to landfill, rent, rates, interest, business insurance, legal compliance and reporting, systems accreditation and certification and a range of other key metrics.
Mr Harford said the figures included in the template method were based on current market intelligence and reported composition of materials in kerbside.
“Having said that however, the figures are indicative and as a guide only, it is intended that the method and tool is adapted to each individual circumstance and the numbers re-entered to reflect actual specific arrangements,” he said.
He said kerbside recycling is a relatively complex arrangement when all factors are considered and it is not homogeneous. Mr Harford noted that council contracts differ and companies use varying business and operational models.
“It is therefore necessary to assess a broad range of activities to determine whether the service being offered is adequate, the price is reasonable and the operation is sustainable. The risk assessment is a process to navigate what may or may not be a priority for a particular arrangement. The most significant risk factors depend on each circumstance.
“For some councils, security of downstream markets for commodities may be paramount, while for others it may be business contingency and insurance. The method and tool enables assessment of a wide range of risk factors.”
Mr Harford said general feedback has been positive and that the information is helping people work through reviewing and, where needed, updating kerbside arrangements.
“Equilibrium doesn’t present this is as being anything entirely novel as most people with a working knowledge of kerbside would be aware of these issues, but it is a way to bring more transparency and accountability to current considerations. The method and tool is being updated based on further feedback and to also account for other factors that some operators have requested – one being an ability to assess capital expenditure impacts on ongoing arrangements.”
MWRRG Chief Executive Officer Rob Millard said the organisation has shared the tool with other jurisdictions to inform and support a consistent approach to dealing with recycling challenges across the country.
To request a copy email firstname.lastname@example.org or call + 61 3 9372 5356
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