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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Government launches review of Environment Protection Act

The Federal Government has launched a once in a decade review of Australia’s environmental law.

The decision aims to deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations.

Led by Monash University Professorial Fellow Graeme Samuel, the statutory review will examine whether the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) remains fit for purpose, and fit for the future within the context of a changing environment.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Professor Samuel will lead an expert panel including Bruce Martin, Wendy Craik, Erica Smyth and Andrew Macintosh.

“This review is not about ideology,” Ms Ley said.

“The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions, and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.”

Ms Ley said decision making delays are estimated to cost the economy roughly $300 million a year, which frustrates business and environmental groups.

“The act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection, but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy,” Ms Ley said.

“I’ve asked Professor Samuel to look at how we can improve efficiency, and make clear and simple decisions that deliver strong, clear and focused environmental protection.”

Ms Ley said Professor Samuel will be releasing a discussion paper in November and begin initial stakeholder meetings shortly thereafter.

Under the review’s terms of reference, the independent reviewer must provide a report to the environment minister within 12 months of the review’s commencement.

Terms of reference include examining the act’s current operations and the extent to which objectives are being achieved. Furthermore, the reference aims to make recommendations to modernise the act, including considerations of Australia’s international environmental responsibilities and the implementation of relevant agreements between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

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Moving the Needle targets textile waste

The Moving the Needle campaign has set up a reverse retail kiosk in Sydney, in an attempt to address the amount of clothing sent to landfill over the holiday period.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley joined Salvo Stores General Manager Customer and Strategy Edwina Morgan, Australian Red Cross Head of Retail Richard Wood and Vinnies NSW Executive Officer Retail Transformation Susan Goldie at a reverse pop-up store at Chatswood Chase, where shoppers deposit, rather than purchase clothes.

Moving the Needle aims to reduce textile waste by 20 per cent by 2022.

According to Ms Ley, the average Australian buys 27 kilograms of new textiles and sends 23 kilograms of textile waste to landfill each year.

“Moving the needle is about re-purposing the not so old clothes that you no longer wear and donating them to a local charity,” Ms Ley said.

“For every new outfit, donate an older one that might hiding in the back of the closet to help raise funds for those in need.”

National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations Chief Exectutive Omer Soker said Moving the Needle encourages customers to extend the life of their clothing by donating to one of 3000 charitable donation points across the country.

“Charitable donations can extend the life of pre-loved, usable products by keeping them out of landfill,” Mr Soker said.

“Giving your clothes a second life for even nine months could reduce carbon, water and waste emissions by up to 30 per cent, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your donations make a huge social impact.”

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Environment Minister discusses export ban with industry

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has hosted a waste and resource recovery roundtable in Sydney, with Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

According to a WMRR statement, executives from Australia’s leading waste, recycling, and resource recovery firms shared their insight with Ms Ley on current barriers to growth and success, including the lack of a nationally consistent and harmonised policy and regulatory framework.

“The minister was keen to hear about the current challenges and opportunities, and importantly, the key elements that would give the export ban, announced at the COAG meeting in August, the greatest chance at success,” the statement reads.

The roundtable was attended by executives from SUEZ, Cleanaway, Veolia, JJ Richards, ResourceCo, Tyrecycle, Visy Industries, Re.Group, Bingo Industries, Alex Fraser, and O-I.

WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said industry certainty is lacking in Australia, due to different policies, strategies, regulations and specifications across jurisdictions, and the lack of markets.

“The goal posts are constantly changing and often, our industry is a political football which exacerbates the challenges because it causes greater instability and uncertainty,” Ms Sloan said.

“The minister listened intently and said she had a clear idea of the current landscape and need for greater harmonisation, which we appreciated.”

Ms Sloan said Ms Ley advised that the forthcoming export ban on waste paper, plastic, glass and tyres would be on the agenda at the 8 November Meeting of Environment Ministers.

According to the WMRR statement, industry leaders said they would applaud the ban if it was coupled with the expansion of reprocessing and recycling, and the development of domestic remanufacturing.

“Sure, we can stop shipping these materials, and industry does not want to export – we absolutely want to reprocess and recycle right here in Australia – but if there’s no buyback or take up of the recycled products, where does that leave us?” Ms Sloan said.

“The ban must be supported first and foremost by sustainable and mandated procurement at all levels of government, with the Commonwealth leading the way.”

In a separate statement, Ms Ley said the Federal Government would work with Australia’s leading recyclers to achieve the earliest possible export ban time frame.

“The Prime Minister has agreed with all state and territory governments that a ban will be put in place, and we want to establish a clear timetable and clear strategic priorities by working with both industry and the state environment ministers,” Ms Ley said.

“A ban on plastic exports should not lead to higher levels of stockpiling in Australia, and I will be challenging all parties, the states, the industry participants and the community to embark on genuine change in tackling waste.”

Of her meeting with WMRR, Ms Ley said it was clear that policy consistency was needed across the states.

“We need to give industry the confidence to invest in recycling and remanufacturing, and an assurance that markets are being created for their products,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley also meet with industry leaders at the Australian Council of Recycling in Melbourne, including senior executives from Visy, Veolia, Orora, 0-I, PACT, Sims Metal Management, Reconomy-Downer, Close the Loop and Tyrecycle.

“The clear message from this and my previous meetings is that the re-cycling industry is in no doubt about the opportunities for re-manufactured products or the ability to generate future investment for expansion,” Ms Ley said.

“Concerns remain, however, about excessive or inconsistent planning regulations that could hamper that growth and the disparate range of collection strategies across local government.”

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New parliamentary role created for waste reduction

Re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new parliamentary position, Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister.

The role has been awarded to Queensland MP Trevor Evans, who was elected to the House of Representatives for Brisbane in 2016.

Mr Morrison has also announced his new cabinet, replacing Environment Minister Melissa Price with Sussan Ley.

Ms Price served as Environment Minister since August 2018, after previously serving as Assistant Minister to the portfolio.

Since being elected to parliament in 2001, Ms Ley has served as Health Minister, Education Minister, Sport Minister and most recently Regional Development Assistant Minister.

“Australians hold strong views on caring for our environment, both locally and globally, and I look forward to listening to the variety of perspectives and ideas that will be put forward,” Ms Ley said.

“As well as implementing our government’s strong range of policy initiatives in this portfolio.”

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said the national industry body welcomed both appointments.

“WMRR congratulates both the minister and assistant minister, and looks forward to working with them on the commitments made by the government ahead of the election. Once the dust settles WMRR will be engaging with Minister Ley on how we can move forward,” Ms Sloan said.

“Effectively drawing that link between the environment and the economy so our essential waste and resource recovery industry maximises the opportunities at hand, to not only protect the environment, but grow local jobs and the economy.”

Australian Council of Recyclers CEO Peter Shmigel said the appointment of Sussan Ley and Trevor Evans represents unprecedented national leadership on recycling,

“This is the first time there’s direct ownership and accountability for recycling results at a ministerial level. The creation of the assistant minister role is a really welcome innovation by Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” Mr Shmigel said.

“The assistant minister helps guarantee the delivery of the government’s very substantive and useful recycling promises, including infrastructure funding and product stewardship progress.”

Roles within the Environment and Energy Department have also been re-shuffled, with responsibility for emissions reduction transferred from environment minister to energy minister.

Ms Price has been removed from cabinet all together and will serve as defence minister, while Angus Taylor remains in his role as energy minister.

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