ACOR calls for battery product stewardship

Handheld batteries are a major fire risk in established recycling facilities and immediate action is needed to remove them from the general recycling stream, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel is calling on environment ministers to establish a national battery product stewardship and recycling scheme, with robust manufacturer participation.

“As a result of the digital age, battery consumption is going up by about 300 per cent per year and millions of post-consumer batteries are ending up where they don’t belong, which causes not only environmental harm but increasingly fires and occupational health and safety risks,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Analysis by ACOR shows that a national battery recycling scheme would cost less than one per cent of a typical battery’s retail price, and that seems a very small contribution for manufacturers to make to ensure better environmental and safety outcomes.”

According to Mr Shmigel, only three per cent of batteries are recycled in Australia, compared to 70 per cent in Europe, which has long-established, government-mandated schemes.

Mr Shmigel added that many batteries end up in household kerbside recycling bins as a result of “wishcycling.”

“Batteries that wrongly end up in our industry’s established materials recovery facilities for packaging or scrap metal recycling operations are known to explode as a result of heat and pressure from normal operations,” Mr Shmigel said.

“We are now consistently experiencing the operational and cost impacts, and should not wait to see somebody hurt.”

Outside selected retailer initiatives, Mr Shmigel said there is no alternative, comprehensive or accessible way for Australians to present used batteries for recycling.

“What we have in Australia is not recovery but malarkey. For nearly a decade, there’s been chain-dragging from major battery manufacturers and governments on setting up national programs, where all consumers can easily recycle their used batteries, just as they can their computers, TVs and mobile phones,” Mr Shmigel said.

Mr Shmigel said battery recycling solutions were put forward by industry and NGOs at the last two Meetings of Environment Ministers, however no substantive decisions were made.

“In the meantime, insurance premiums in our industry are known to have increased by five-fold per year in some cases due to increased fire risk,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Because we have very limited to no control of batteries coming into our facilities, that’s a totally inappropriate cost shift when producers are not taking appropriate responsibility.”

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New product stewardship scheme to launch

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

Booster 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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MobileMuster releases 2019 Annual Report

Mobile telecommunication product stewardship scheme MobileMuster has released its 2019 Annual Report, to coincide with its 21st anniversary.

MobileMuster celebrated its 21st anniversary at The Mint in Sydney, with Telstra Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs and Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Chair Jane van Beelen and Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans.

MobileMuster Manager Spyro Kalos said the report examines the schemes performance in 2019, as well as the significant progress of the organisation over the last 21 years.

After 21 years of operation, MobileMuster is Australia’s oldest product stewardship scheme.

“The success of the program to date demonstrates how the industry can work together voluntarily to deliver social and environmental outcomes,” Mr Kalos said.

“We are committed to continuing to invest in the next generation of mobile phone users, educating them about the impact of their mobiles and how to act for a sustainable future.”

Since 1998, the program has collected and recycled nearly 1500 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories, including over 14 million handsets and batteries.

“Further, in this year alone, MobileMuster collected and recycled 84.1 tonnes of mobiles, their batteries, chargers and accessories and through the process, recovered metals, glass and plastics, averting 188 tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of planting 4840 trees,” Mr Kalos said.

Through the program’s recycling processes, over 95 per cent of the material from mobile phones and accessories is recovered and used to manufacture new products.

“With an estimated 25 million mobiles being stored by Australians, we hope to get more Australians recycling,” Mr Kalos said.

“In addition, we are working towards zero waste to landfill, that means no mobiles will be disposed of in the general waste stream.”

According to the report, MobileMuster has an industry participation level of 92 per cent, including Alcatel, Apple, Google, HMD Global (Nokia), HTC, Huawei, Microsoft, Motorola and Oppo.

To read the report click here.

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Time to get Australia’s product stewardship back on track

Product stewardship is an effective way to deliver cost effective solutions that minimise the impact of products, goods and materials on the environment and human health. Product stewardship is also an important tool that can drive resource recovery and the circular economy in Australia, writes Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council.

What exactly is product stewardship? Simply, producers take responsibility to minimise the human health and environmental impacts of their products throughout their complete life cycle.

From designing out waste to recycling at the end of life and everything in between.

Producers, manufacturers, brands and/or retailers take the primary responsibility and work with their supply chains (upstream and downstream) and customers to minimise harm to human health and the environment.

Product stewardship has been part of Australia’s regulatory framework since the late 1990’s. However, it has had a very stop and start history due to inconsistent government willingness to put in place the necessary regulatory and policy frameworks essential to make producer responsibility possible.

From 1998 through to 2001 there was a flurry of regulatory and voluntary activity with the establishment of the Used Packaging National Environment Protection Measure in 1998 and the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act in 2000.

At the same time industry led voluntary schemes for mobile phones (MobileMuster) and farm chemical containers (DrumMuster) kicked off. Meanwhile, various pilot take-back projects started for select IT equipment and televisions. As part of its 2001 Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act, the NSW Government introduced a provision to establish extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in NSW.

However, for the next decade little progress was made in addressing the growing impacts of products on the environment due to governments’ ongoing preference for voluntary, industry-led product stewardship programs.

Fortunately, in 2011 the Federal Government took the lead, stepped up and introduced the Product Stewardship Act, which is a robust piece of legislation that provides a framework for government and industry to reduce the impacts of products on the environment and society.

The first suite of products to be addressed under the Act were televisions, computers, printers and accessories. Within 12 months the Product Stewardship (Television and Computers) Regulation was passed establishing the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) requiring all companies who import or manufacture these products in Australia to provide free, reasonable accessible collection services, achieve agreed collection and recovery targets.

The result, within five years collection rates jumped from 18 per cent (under sporadic voluntary programs) to 60 per cent. Australia’s e-waste collection and recycling capacity increased, creating jobs and revenue for Australia at minimal cost to local councils, state or federal governments. Not to mention hundreds of thousands of tonnes of electronic waste being diverted from landfills. With, more than 90 per cent of the materials recovered to an Australian Standard for reuse.

Unfortunately, though, the impetus government for smart, cost effective regulation to create a level playing field for producers was short lived.  As eight years on all we have is a suite of poor performing, partly industry funded, voluntary schemes for tyres, paint, printer cartridges, and mattresses.

Plus, we still don’t have any form of producer responsibility scheme for batteries, other electronics or photovoltaics. Even though these products have been on the product priority list for up to six years.

But fingers crossed, with the new Federal Government’s election commitment of $20 million for product stewardship the tide is changing.  However, we have yet to hear from the government as to how it will invest these funds. Let alone what the outcomes from the Product Stewardship Act Review are, which was initiated way back in 2017.

So, here are a few suggestions to help them get things moving.

Do not change the objects of the Act. They are fine. Just get on and implement them.

Using regulation effectively and efficiently

Free riding is the biggest barrier to getting producer stewardship schemes up and running. To solve this problem, amend the Act so that when a product is placed on the priority list all organisations who put those products in to the Australia market must either:

  1. register and establish a voluntary accredited scheme either as part of the government’s process or on their own within a given timeframe, or
  2. be a member of an existing accredited voluntary scheme.

If not, they will be required to pay an agreed advance recycling fee for each unit placed on the market to the Product Stewardship Fund, which will be used to support local and state government activity in recovering and dealing with the product.

To ensure the APCO packaging targets are met within the required timeframes, establish a regulation under the Act that replaces the Used Packaging NEPM and call out these targets, with penalties similar to the NTCRS for failure to meet the targets.

Getting the priorities right

Batteries and photovoltaics, given the diversity of both these industries free rider regulation needs to be put in place. A voluntary approach will not work. Therefore, resources should be applied to establish the necessary regulations under the Act and assist the industry in getting these two schemes up and running by the end of 2020.

Expand the scope of the NTCRS to include all electronics. The ACT, SA and Victoria have all banned e-waste from landfills. This means the cost of collecting and processing these products is unfairly being borne by local councils and state governments rather than the producers and users.

Making Voluntary Accreditation Meaningful

Amend the voluntary accreditation system to a three-tiered approach: 

Tier 1 – companies register to develop a voluntary scheme within 12 months that includes a three-year product stewardship business plan.

Tier 2 – companies apply for accreditation by submitting a three-year product stewardship business plan.

Tier 3 – companies apply for renewal of accreditation by submitting a five- year product stewardship business plan.

At each tier the Federal Government will provide funding (on a dollar for dollar basis) and/or in-kind resources for any of the following activities – material flow analysis, risk assessment, cost sharing agreements, market development, communications, governance compliance requirements, industry and stakeholder engagement, business planning assistance.  As well as government accreditation and access to product stewardship logo.

The first priority would be to have the current suite of voluntary programs for tyres (TSA), paint (Paint Back), farm chemical drums (DrumMuster, ChemClear), printer cartridges (Cartridges for Planet Ark), soft plastics (Redcycle) become accredited. Why? To increase industry participation, improve performance and transparency and to promote them to the community.

The second priority would be to encourage other companies and industries to apply to become accredited through direct approaches and greater engagement with industry.

It’s time for the new Minister for Environment and Energy and her Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management to turn their election promises into action. It’s also time for state and territory governments to get behind the federal government’s product stewardship commitment by contributing matching dollars to the National Product Stewardship Fund.

If the federal government doesn’t get going soon waste will continue to be exported.  Landfills will fill up with products that leach potentially harmful substances. Stockpiles and risk of fires will continue to grow due to lack of markets and infrastructure to process products. Batteries will continue contaminate kerbside bins, causing explosions and fires, putting recyclers and infrastructure at risk. Potentially recyclable, rare and valuable resources will be lost.

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Paintback appoints new Chair of the Board

Product stewardship scheme Paintback has appointed Lucia Cade to lead collaboration for a sustainable paint industry.

On joining Paintback’s board, Ms Cade said the unique industry-led business model creates a responsible life cycle for products, and value from previously discarded material.

Since beginning in 2016, Paintback has collected more than 13,000 tonnes of paint and packaging from consumers and trade.

“Paintback provides great environmental stewardship to match great customer service. This is the future of industry accountability to manage the world’s precious resources,” Ms Cade said.

“An inspiring level of collaboration between business is needed to achieve this.”

According to a Paintback statement, Ms Cade presides over a number of boards as a non-executive director, and holds advisory roles in global listed companies and government organisations including South East Water, Carbon Revolution, Engineers Australia, Regional Investment Corporation and Future Fuels Co-operative Research Centre.

“Bringing more than 20 years experience in commercial engineering to Paintback, Ms Cade has driven innovation and government and regulatory stakeholder engagement across industries including water, waste, energy and infrastructure,” the statement reads.

Ms Cade will lead the board of business leaders, working with Dulux Group Chief Operating Officer Patrick Jones, Consumer Brands Asia Region President Richard Meagher, Paintback CEO Karen Gomez and others.

“Successful business leaders today are conductors of an orchestra, where excellence in every single instrument is what creates beautiful music,” Ms Cade said.

“Modern leaders normalise differences in the world. You want people who are excellent at what they do.”

As an independent not-for-profit organisation, Paintback is funded through a 15 cent plus GST levy on eligible paint products sold, approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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Tracing every last drop: Cookers Bulk Oil

Cookers Bulk Oil is helping the food services sector transition to a circular economy through a business model centred on managing the entire life of oil and traceability.

Traceability is a prominent concept across the waste and resource recovery sector as multiple players in the supply chain are tasked with looking after the movement of waste.

The same concept is just as important in Australia’s food sector with certifications that ensure products and services gain a tick of approval for best practice. Minimising environmental risks is central to providing customers with such a service.

With tens of thousands of eating establishments throughout Australia – all of which use cooking oil of one form or another – it is an issue that bulk oil specialist Cookers Bulk knows all too well.

When it comes to sustainability, traceability and how vegetable oil can affect its surrounds, the company has processes in place aimed at keeping the environment free from any negative outcomes caused by vegetable oils.

National quality and safety manager for the company Hari Srinivas says product traceability is a universally applicable concept.

He says this is why Cookers has rigid standards when it comes to sourcing its vegetable oil supplies.

“To deal with Cookers you need to be an approved supplier, which means we look and see what sort of practices and standards you are following,” Hari explains.

“Suppliers need to meet minimum standards and it means we don’t go to any supplier who hasn’t got a certification/traceability system in place that is not internationally recognised.”

He cites the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) a private organisation established and managed by the Consumer Goods Forum in Belgium. It maintains a scheme to benchmark food safety standards for manufacturers.

Certification can be achieved through a successful third-party audit by schemes recognised by the GFSI including the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8, IFS Food Version 6 and SQF Safe Quality Food Code 8th Edition, to name a few.

“Without those types of certification we don’t even entertain any supplier,” Hari says.

“We are stringent with our suppliers. If you look into the way the industry is going now, the majority of the supply chains are going through some sort of certification system, including HACCP. These sorts of certifications are one of the core fundamentals of traceability.”

Hari says he is proud that the company has yet to have any of its products recalled. He puts it down to not only the standards it sets, but also compliant suppliers, and their own end-users as well.

Every year, Cookers performs an exercise where they have a mock recall, which involves checking its suppliers’ traceability to make sure they have the correct systems in place and that they are working. This is because he knows that if there ever is a recall, they need to know where every drop of oil they have distributed has ended up.

The good news for end-users is that if that does happen, Cookers will be able to trace the batch number and know where the offending product
is very quickly through its centralised system.

Traceability is also key when it comes to dealing with customers in case things go wrong once the oil has been distributed. Cookers make sure its customers also comply with standards and regulations, too as it’s important the company ensures its customers are getting the product they paid for, according to specifications.

“We are audited every year, and our auditor reviews how long it takes to check something and what is the level of accuracy of our traceability,” Hari says.

“If we have an issue, we can compare it with the same batch delivered nationally to different customers. We can get a sample and test it with the same batches from other customers.”

Cookers’ circular economy solution ensures that the customers who procure its fresh oil are also its used oil collection customers.

Within this setup, Cookers also run a fleet of vehicles, including stainless steel trucks delivering fresh cooking oil and blue vehicles picking up the used product.

Not only do they pick it up, but the company provides storage equipment used on-site by the customer and facilitates the management of the entire life of the oil.   

“Once they use the oil, we provide the equipment to transfer the used oil product into our blue tankers, which collect it at regular intervals,” Hari says.

“We get the oil back and we have got mechanisms to handle the oil in such a way it can go into biodiesel production.

“It means that with every drop of oil we sell, we make sure not a single drop goes into the drain.”

Taking this a step further, Cookers can measure the amount of oil collected and ensure it is the same as that delivered.

“We do all the calculations, so if there are any big variations we will go and speak to the customer to see if there is anything wrong and find out whether we can help with oil management.”

He says another reason to use a company like Cookers Bulk Oil is that due to its tanker delivery method, no empty oil tins head to local landfill. If a customer needed 100 litres of oil per week, that would usually consist of five 20-litre drums which may end up in landfill. With Cookers’ tankers, the drums are redundant.

Importantly, Hari says most of the oil is Australian sourced and more than 90 per cent refined locally.

“For example, the canola oil we sell is 100 per cent Australian.

“Other oils, depending on the cropping situation, are imported in crude form from reputable suppliers who have proper certifications in place – usually from Argentina and European countries.”

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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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New think-tank launches to combat E-waste

A new independent think-tank Ewaste Watch will launch this Friday with the aim of protecting community health and the environment through accelerating levels of electronics sustainability.

Ewaste Watch will focus on three key questions, are we doing enough? can we do better? and what are the solutions beyond recycling?

The think tank is calling on federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to expand the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all products with a plug or a battery, and ensure that end-of-life electronics are diverted from landfill.

Ewaste Watch is also calling on Ms Price to create a regulated national recycling scheme for all handheld batteries under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act.

Ewaste Watch Director and co-founder John Gertsakis said Australian’s are globally the fourth highest generators of e-waste per capita, producing over 23.6 kilograms per inhabitant or 574,000 tonnes per annum.

According Mr Gertsakis, the world generates 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, with only 20 percent being recycled through appropriate channels.

Mr Gertsakis said there is a lack of effective collaboration, research and action on how to effectively deal with the rapid growth of electronics and the associated socio-environmental impacts.

“Electronic products are proliferating in society, and in many ways have become an extension of us that we take for granted,” Mr Gertsakis said.

“The reality however, is that recycling alone will not deliver the sustainable outcomes and materials conservation required. Greater attention is needed on product durability, reuse, repair, sharing and productive material-use to turn the tide on ewaste and create circular electronics.”

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme regulated under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act has collected and recycled 291,280 tonnes — roughly 42 per cent of waste arising — of TV and computer ewaste since its creation in 2011.

Mr Gertsakis said this doesn’t include a variety of other end-of-life electronics, most of which are still ending up in landfill.

“There are few if any collection, reuse or recycling options for small appliances, power-tools, photovoltaic panels, handheld batteries and a growing number of consumer electronics devices,” Mr Gertsakis said.

According to Mr Gertsakis, Australian’s import 100,000 tonnes of televisions, computers, printers and computer accessories each year, roughly 35 million pieces of electronic equipment per annum.

“The Federal Government must require any company placing Internet of Things devices on the Australian market to provide a detailed plan for the reuse and recycling of these devices when they are damaged, replaced or reach end-of-life — including how such plans will be funded,” Mr Gertsakis said.

Ewaste Watch’s second Director and co-founder Rose Read said the think-tank will inform, educate, engage and activate key stakeholders across the electronics life-cycle, from design and manufacturing through to retail, government and the general public.

“Business as usual and voluntary programs have barely made a dent in the total volume of ewaste arising, so the urgency for step-change improvement, new business models and positive disruption is now overwhelmingly obvious,” Ms Read said.

“Circular solutions for electronics across the complete product life-cycle is a cornerstone for Ewaste Watch, as is the need to empower consumers to buy less, choose well and make it last.”

Ewaste Watch’s activities will include attention to social and consumer aspects, product design, cleaner production, smart logistics, innovative consumption models such as sharing economies and collaborative consumption, reuse, repair and recycling.

Ms Read said Ewaste Watch will achieve this through knowledge sharing, policy analysis, consumer education, exhibitions and public activations.

Ewaste Watch will collaborate closely with its research partner the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, with Professor of Resource Futures Damien Giurco chairing the Ewaste Watch advisory group.

Ewaste Watch will be officially launched by War on Waste presenter Craig Reucassel at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.

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Mandatory product stewardship cost on consumers calculated

A new analysis for the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) by independent consultancy firm Equilibrium has estimated the cost of mandatory product stewardship schemes on consumers.

The analysis looked at mandatory product stewardship approaches for different products, and estimated the potential dollars per unit that a mandatory scheme would cost.

Under the current Product Stewardship Act 2011, schemes can be established for a variety of different products and materials to lower their lifecycle impacts.

Mandatory schemes involve enabling regulations to be made that require some persons to take specific action on products, according to the analysis. This could include restricting the manufacture or import of products, prohibiting products from containing particular substances, labelling and packaging requirements and other requirements for reusing, recovering, treating or disposing of products.

For a mandatory e-waste scheme, the cost is estimated to be between $1.55 and $1.85 for an e-waste unit size equivalent product of 0.75 kilograms. For mattresses, the cost of a mattress unit (standard double size) would be between $14.50 to $16.50. A mandatory tyre scheme would cost about $3.50 to $4.00 equivalent passenger units.

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ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said the Australian community has long supported recycling and overwhelmingly wants to be able to recycle more products and items.

“This new data shows that we can do so 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 said.

Mr Shmigel said that recycling of these items is a well-established practice overseas, including in much less developed countries, and it is difficult to understand why it is not here too.

“Indeed, the formal review of Australia’s Product Stewardship Act has disappeared and is significantly overdue, the new National Waste Policy has a blank space for product stewardship, and there has been no news following ministers’ apparent discussion of product stewardship at the December 2018 Meeting of Environment Ministers.”

ACOR also believes the major political parties need to make commitments in the areas of recycling infrastructure investment, incentives for and procurement of recycled content products and community education. It has submitted industry analysis for consideration.

Equilibrium Managing Director Nick Harford said that while they can be improved, the current co-regulated TV, computer and mobile phone product stewardship schemes are producing good results. He added that there has been no demonstrable consumer concern about their cost.

“While the current schemes are not mandatory, and research estimates that mandatory schemes may have higher administration costs, the estimated cost per unit in relation to the total product cost is generally reasonable,” he said.

The analysis of the potential impacts of mandatory schemes covered factors including:

  • Collection and transport
  • Processing and recycling
  • Compliance, monitoring, audit and reporting
  • Safety and environmental management
  • Sales
  • Administration
  • Marketing, communications and education
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