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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VIC councils receive $16.5M e-waste infrastructure funding

The Victorian Government has awarded 76 councils a share of $16.5 million to improve the state’s e-waste infrastructure.

Funding will go towards upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection and storage sites and help local councils to safely store and collect increasing amounts of e-waste.

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The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.

Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.

Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.

E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.

The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.

“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.

Planet Ark and HP release sustainability report

A new study from electronics manufacturer HP and Planet Ark has found 90 per cent of Australian consumers and businesses are concerned about environmental sustainability, with more than 70 per cent willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

The HP Australia Environmental Sustainability Study 2018 was commissioned to discover the perceptions, value and behaviours of Australians toward environmental sustainability.

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It surveyed more than 1000 people aged 27 to 53 and more than 600 businesses ranging from one to four employees to 51 to 500.

According to the study, most consumers and businesses see marine plastic pollution, landfill waste and the impact on the natural environment as the three leading environmental sustainability concerns.

The study also found a lack of awareness about e-waste, reporting that half of Australian consumers and 44 per cent of businesses do not recycle printer ink and toner cartriages.

HP South Pacific Interim Managing Director Paul Gracey said Australians are starting to recognise the impact of their day to day behaviours.

“Through this research collaboration we aim to help Australian consumers uncover new ways to help the planet, while putting a spotlight on the need for businesses and brands to take meaningful action towards becoming more environmentally sustainable – both for the health of the planet and to future-proof their business,” Mr Gracey said.

Planet Ark Recycling Programs Manager Ryan Collins said it is no longer enough for companies to have environmentally sustainable practices and should encourage these behaviours in others.

“Today’s consumers have good intentions but look to brands to help them to make positive changes towards protecting the environment in their day to day. At Planet Ark, our focus is on enabling companies to be part of the solution and we’re proud to be working alongside HP to better educate Australian consumers and businesses,” Mr Collins said.

For more information on the report, click here.

Planning for national solar panel product stewardship underway

Research for a national product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, is underway.

Research for a national product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, is underway.

Sustainability Victoria has appointed product stewardship consultant Equilibrium to analyse and assess potential options for a national product stewardship to help manage end of life products.

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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.

War on Waste season 2 fights bottles, straws, e-waste and more

The first episode of Craig Reucassel’s War on Waste season two will broadcast on the ABC at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 24 July.

More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.

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Season two’s first episode will look at new issues around plastic water bottles and straws, and e-waste.

It will also delve deeper into previously discussed issues of food waste and Australia’s recycling crisis.

A giant footprint made of plastic packaging was created on Sydney’s Manly beach to highlight the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in waterways.

With more than 10 million plastic straws being used every day in Australia, Mr Reucassel joins forces with the minds behind the #strawnomore movement to challenge pubs and fast food chains to ban the straw from their venues.

The show will also look at Australia’s fastest growing waste stream, e-waste. With tonnes of discarded computers, mobile phones and electrical goods ending up in landfill, Mr Reucassel highlights the dangers of the toxic elements within them leaching into the environment.

War on Waste season two also sees Mr Reucassel going undercover to expose the amount of food that is wasted when eating at restaurants.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury said the issues of disposable water bottles will be placed under the microscope.

“Last year’s series saw tremendous media coverage extend to disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, household food waste and the wasteful policy of retailers,” he said.

Mr Khoury said collectors and processor can help the war on waste by providing better education for waste generators, provide a range of recycling options, use modern equipment, transport all waste and recyclables to a lawful facility and invest in training for workers.

“We all can lobby the NSW Government to invest more of the $700 million collected from the waste levy into waste management programs and much needed infrastructure to divert more waste from landfill,” he said.

Image credit: ABC

Australia could be the future of battery recycling – report

Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.

The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.

It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.

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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

Sustainability Victoria launch e-waste campaign ahead of ban

In the lead up to Victoria’s ban on e-waste to landfill, the state government has launched a $1.5 million public education and awareness campaign.

The campaign aims to help Victorians better understand e-waste and reduce the amount sent to landfill ahead of the 1 July 2019 ban.

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Regulatory measures were made in late June to update existing statutory policies to include e-waste as a material banned from landfill and an amendment which specifies how it should be managed safely.

Current practices show that at least 90 per cent of a computer, television or mobile phone can be recovered and reused.

Victoria currently has a range of collection points for e-waste, but there is the potential to develop new collection sites and expand the range of electrical, electronic and battery powered items to be recycled.

Managers of e-waste in Victoria have a year to adapt to the new regulatory measures and gives time for Victoria’s e-waste collection network to be operational.

Victorian councils can also apply for $15 million in grants to upgrade or build collection and storage facilities in 130 areas where need has been identified. Funding applications close 14 September.

Sustainability Victoria acting CEO Jonathan Leake said Electronic waste is growing up to three times faster than general municipal waste in Australia.

“Australians are high users of technology and among the largest generators of e-waste in the world,” he said.

“It’s estimated the country’s e-waste will increase more than 60 percent, to a predicted 223,000 tonnes in 2023–24.”

“Recycling captures valuable metals like copper, silver, gold, aluminium and other metals, as well as plastics and glass so they can be re-used in the next wave of technology rather than mining or making new materials,” Mr Leake said.

War on Waste season 2 focus on e-waste and recycling crisis

Q&A War on Waste episode to feature WMAA

The ABC’s War on Waste will return on Tuesday, July 24, to tackle new targets including plastic water bottles, straws, e-waste and furniture waste.

The series will also explore previous topics such as food waste and the recycling crisis.

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More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.

The series inspired Australians to get involved about waste management, with the Keep Cup crashing and sales rising by 400 per cent after the series, Woolworth and Coles announced lightweight plastic bags in the series, and reusable coffee cup scheme Responsible Cafes went from having 420 cafes to 1050 a week after the broadcast.

Craig Reucassel returns as host and aims to expose the effects of e-waste from discarded laptops, mobile phones and electronic goods in landfill.

ABC ME is also launching a new eight-episode series for children called Project Planet that aims to demonstrate how everyone can make a difference for sustainability.

ABC Director of Entertainment & Specialist David Anderson said War on Waste highlights the ABC’s capacity to spark national conversations and drive community action and social change.

“The distinctively ABC series empowers people to take immediate steps to reduce their consumption of plastic and electronic goods, and wastage of coffee cups and food. Waste is a universal issue, it impacts everyone,” he said.

Battery Stewardship Council welcomes changes

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has begun designing an industry-led stewardship scheme, which will undertake consultations of the industry and public in the coming months.

The BSC welcomed the plan to fast track the development of a stewardship scheme that aims to result in all types of batteries being recycled in Australia.

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The meeting of Environmental Ministers on 27 April 2018 was called to address concerns in the Australian recycling industry with representatives from federal, state and territory ministers.

Of the 400 million batteries that enter the Australian market each year, less than three per cent of non-car batteries are recycled in Australia, according to a 2014 trend analysis and market assessment report, prepared on behalf of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation.

Toxic chemicals such as nickel, cadmium, alkaline and mercury are often found in batteries, and can be a risk to the environment and human health due to their flammability and the leaching of heavy metals.

The BSC was formed earlier in 2018, combining government and industry bodies, to undertake background work to understanding the markets and barriers to recycling that need to be addressed in a stewardship scheme.

The work of the Battery Stewardship Council is supported by the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) with funding from the QLD Department of Environment and Science.

Chairman of the Battery Stewardship Council Gerry Morvell said Australians have to stop the throw away mentality which wastes a fully recyclable resource and poses a long-term threat to human health and the environment.

“One of our key aims is to facilitate the building of a strong and effective battery recycling industry in Australia. We do not want a repetition of the go-stop issue that has emerged with plastics,” said Mr Morvell.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative Chief Executive Officer Libby Chaplin said there is a confluence of events paving the way for an industry led scheme that could quickly solve this rapidly escalating problem waste.

“Australia has the capability and there is growing motivation to transform this waste management concern into a resource recovery success story,” she said.

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