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Category Archives: Environment

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Equilibrium’s managing director, Nick Harford is presenting this week at the 2018 WasteSA Resource Recovery Conference in Adelaide. It’s an excellent event typically attended by key players who know the industry and what is required to move it forward.

The current climate confronting the waste and resource recovery industry generates considerable  discussion and speculation about preferred solutions, desired outcomes, essential infrastructure and/or policy reforms.

Product stewardship – either voluntary or regulated – is often hooked into the dialogue, as a key tool for more efficient resource use, including the recovery and recycling of products and materials. And in many cases (but not all) this is an accurate assessment.

Nick’s conference presentation will highlight that product stewardship is one tool among many when it comes to waste avoidance and resource recovery. The environment and sustainability toolbox contains many approaches that need to be mixed and matched depending on the specific problem or opportunity being addressed.

Whether we are focussed on material substitution,  eliminating restricted substances, extended product life or design for disassembly and remanufacturing, the need to carefully choose a solution or hybrid of tools, should be informed and with clear justification.

In short, it is about understanding the issue, the desired outcome and the relevance of available approaches or tools. Fit for purpose thinking is essential when it comes to maximising efficiency and effectiveness with a view to delivering measurable benefit.

Contact Nick directly to request a copy of his conference presentation:

Nick Harford
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile:  0419 993 234

NSW Government moves on Circular Policy

The goal of a circular economy is being discussed across sectors, industries and communities. Much of it with substance and strong intent, but some of it superficial and simplistic.

Most importantly, there is a recognition that new patterns of production and consumption are essential. This is especially relevant if we as an economy and community are to maximise resource productivity, minimise impacts and develop a new, more benign relationship with products and the materials they are made from.

The need for effective policy reform is timely, as is the need for economy-wide attention. Rebranding  waste and recycling initiatives as circular economy initiatives certainly fails to recognise the imperative.

As a contribution towards delivering positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for the community that are ‘circular’ the NSW Government is developing relevant policies. Specifically, it has released a draft Circular Economy Policy as well as a Circular Economy Discussion Paper.

The two documents provide a useful overview of the essential principles, including examples of how these can be applied to achieve the desired outcomes. Both the policy and the discussion paper are sensible starting points for informing and engaging interested stakeholders.

Unlike European Union initiatives which identify actions holistically across industries and sectors, the NSW documents are chiefly framed through a waste management lens, which may be more doable over the short-term however at some point will need to address the structural transformation needed to achieve a truly circular economy.

The discussion paper sets an inclusive tone and asks ‘what would a circular economy look like’ and invites ideas on how interested parties could get involved and what support they may require.

Consultation on the draft Circular Economy Policy is open from 22 October to 25 November 2018.

Submissions will inform the process and be used to finalise the policy. This will be followed by an implementation plan that sets out how the NSW Government will ‘work with business and local communities.

You can download the relevant documents and have your say via the following website:

https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/circular

Equilibrium is working with some of its clients and partners to prepare submissions over the coming weeks. We would welcome contact from any company, council or organisation wishing to discuss the process and their response to the discussion paper.

More information

Nick Harford
Managing Director – Equilibrium
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile: 0419 993 234

Films for the Environment

Like many creative endeavours, environmental film making has a long history of storytelling through the lens. Few other mediums are able to capture the imagination of the public like the moving image.

From documentaries which uncover ground-breaking ecological research, through to fictional movies that craft future scenarios of planetary destruction, environmental films can inform, educate, engage and activate individuals and communities alike. As a tool for change and creative expression, there are numerous examples of how films have been pivotal in exposing the good, the bad and the truly shocking.

Ultimately ‘environmental films’ say much about how humans interact with place, be it in urban settings, the wilderness or highly modified agricultural landscapes. They can provide highly personalised accounts like the Erin Brockovich movie dealing with water pollution, or the ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ documentary featuring Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

Closer to home, Waste Not by the Total Environment Centre and A Plastic Ocean by Tasmanian born journalist Craig Leeson ram home the local and global impacts of our consumption and disposal choices.

There is an endless list of films dealing with the environment in all its forms. The extent to which such films have a positive impact on awareness and behaviour change depends on the specific film or movie, however in an age where videos and film are an integral part of a wider campaign using social media and political advocacy, the sum of the parts is what really achieves impact.

The Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA) is a unique and wonderful program of films accessible to local audiences and exposes viewers to the power and potency of film and the environment.

Films that acknowledge our environment whatever the outcomes, are an important part of the mix when it comes to informing and educating the public. Film-makers working with scientists, engineers, government, business and the community, provide a distinctive approach to achieving positive change and a sustainable future.

As a Festival Friend Partner, Equilibrium is especially excited about EFFA 2018 and the films to be featured from 11 – 19 October.

Visit the EFFA website for more information about this year’s program and tickets.

 

Stewardship Tools and Economic Outcomes

Recent pressures on Australia’s waste industry and some local councils reveal thought-provoking views about the desired remedies and solutions. Some of them are well considered, commercially sound and informed; others seem opportunistic and motivated by self-interest.

As part of the scramble for solutions, ambitions for achieving a circular economy are to be commended and pursued, but they must also demonstrate genuine attention to the core principles of what a circular economy is and provides.

In Australia, many circular economy visions and claims seem rebranded ‘old-school’ recycling activities that are far from regenerative, restorative or closed loop. Putting recovered materials into road building is good but not really recycling or upcycling that maximises functional value or extends material life; more so it is a short step from otherwise landfilling such materials.

Such pursuits also seem to typically co-opt product stewardship as a tenet of a circular economy, often going further and binding the two together.

History, theory and reality tells us that product stewardship is about managing the life-cycle of products and this involves much more than materials or waste management. Product stewardship has grown out of chemical companies in particular safeguarding farmers and other end-users from the toxic or health threatening effects of certain chemicals and in particular herbicides and insecticides.

Product stewardship is a tool that can involve diverse interventions at different stages of the life-cycle and across the spectrum of environmental issues and impacts not excluding occupational, health and safety, energy efficiency, safe operation, or design for repair, remanufacturing and refurbishment. Indeed, in many North American companies, product stewardship is often primarily focused on the safe management of chemicals and restricted substances across the product life-cycle.

On the other hand, a circular economy is a desired outcome for managing products and materials in a more  sustainable manner. It seeks to ensure that the production and consumption process values and rewards resource productivity. A circular economy is chiefly the result of materials movement and use allocating waste as an unwanted inefficiency, ipso facto transitioning from the take-make-waste-paradigm to circularity.

Distinct and separate concepts

While there is complementarity as some elements of product stewardship can contribute to achieving a circular economy, they are distinct and separate concepts. Each one worthy and necessary, but not co-dependent, nor interchangeable. One is a tool or approach typically applied by producers and/or retailers; the other is a system-wide outcome involving more action by more players across the economy.

Some claim the need for increased product stewardship regulation in order to cover the cost of market failures or sustain the business activities of waste management providers. Others believe that increased in-country processing of recyclables will resolve the export dilemma. Yet others are convinced that recycled content in packaging with associated labeling can save the day. There is even great enthusiasm for embedding a range of post-consumer materials in road building and construction, instead of embedding it in landfill. And we haven’t even touched on the role of waste to energy and whether it is compatible with circular economy principles.

The reality is that we may need a mix of multiple responses depending on the specific issue or impact being addressed. A one-dimensional approach typically delivers questionable environmental benefit.

For a more circular economy, mandated product stewardship mechanisms might be relevant and necessary in some cases, just as voluntary models might be most desirable in other instances. There will also be myriad other economy-wide measures required, as this has been clearly evidenced by the EU’s package of circular economy measures.

The European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan gives us a sense of what is required in a practical policy and programs sense. It reflects system-wide, economy-wide interventions across sectors, industries and communities. It reflects a transformative approach across many players in government, industry, academia and the community. The Commission’s Action Plan also highlights the comprehensive nature of its measures and how they apply to existing policies, laws, directives, standards regulations, and codes.

The current inclination to push product stewardship and circular economy as partners working towards better waste and recycling outcomes over-plays their purpose and capacity. It also under-estimates the detail of what’s required to achieve better product life cycles and a more circular economy.

Noteworthy examples

Of course there are great examples where product stewardship and circular economy principles work well together and achieve noteworthy results.

Product stewardship is not prima facie about waste management and circular economy, and trying to make it so weakens its role and restricts solutions.

For example, Australia led the way with newsprint recycling through the Publishers National Environment Bureau (PNEB), and a model that reflected both a strong stewardship approach and the core circular economy principles. Australian newspaper and magazine publishing companies worked collaboratively to develop a program that increased recovery and recycling rates of newsprint and did so through closed loop strategies that applied across the supply chain.

This was done as paper recycling operated in a semi-circular economic fashion in its own right. While paper production on a national and global scale physically requires introduction of long fibres only achievable through virgin pulp, the paper industry nonetheless is largely circular based on the economic benefits and inherent value in recovered fibre.

Another real-world exemplar of how stewardship and the circular economy work in tandem but are not co-dependent is the commercial furniture sector. Steelcase is an American company creating products and services for the workplace and is well known for design, manufacture… and refurbishment of workstations, ergonomic seating and other commercial furniture products.

Steelcase developed their Phase 2 Program to handle high-volume furniture recovery and refurbishment activity, all of which is underpinned by a zero waste to landfill goal. It is a smartly designed initiative and seeks to maximise the useful life of office furniture by enabling a second life with other customers. There is a strong charitable and gifting focus but it is also highly commercial. They’ve worked out a model that is regenerative, restorative as well as closed-loop to a significant degree.

The Steelcase gifting and charitable process has also been fine-tuned to work at a national level and with large volumes of product, thus it’s no cottage industry. In many respects it reflects the essence of product stewardship and includes a strong social and charitable dimension while also diverting thousands of workstations and chairs from landfill on an annual basis.

Again, no regulation, producer-focused and a great example of how design for disassembly and refurbishment upstream in  the product life-cycle can deliver social, environmental and economic benefit downstream. It’s more about circular asset management, good design and a company culture that values product durability and charitable objectives.

Successful product stewardship schemes can and do operate with or without the waste industry

In electronics for example, we see product stewardship exercised through asset management programs and reverse logistics operators whereby the consolidation, collection and transport are managed by third parties to manage the remarketing, reuse and redeployment of product. This example is widespread among the mobile phone, computer and business imaging industries with no need for traditional waste management service providers or materials recycling  businesses.

So what do these examples tell us about product stewardship and the circular economy and the relationship therein?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge the difference between tools (product stewardship), and outcomes (circular economy), noting that product stewardship is not just about industry-funded post-consumer waste recycling programs, just as circular economy is more than just processing recyclables in-country.

Closing remarks

Commercial self-interest that is connected to any intervention, program or scheme needs to be called out. Simplistic claims for mandatory instruments should be approached with caution.

The waste and recycling industries have a role to play in product stewardship schemes and pursuit of a more circular economy, they are important service providers and enablers for both. However, they are not central to both, but perhaps more vital in the circular economy than in product stewardship opportunities.  They are only links in a chain.

None of this is about being unrealistic or impractical; more so it is about confronting the evidence we know and hear daily, evidence that tells us that window-dressing, half-measures, and environmental spin, will not deliver the positive change we require in order to consume sustainably and operate successful companies, social enterprises and local councils.

The restorative and regenerative principles inherent in a circular economy tell us that ‘value’ in all its forms must be maximised; that lowest cost is not always the lowest overall price when all environmental, economic and social factors are considered. It also tells us that waste disposal and down-cycling may sometimes the best of limited available options, but are still not circular.

One of the challenges and risks for all stakeholders is to resist the temptation of mediocrity. We need to guard against the broader value of tools like Product Stewardship and circular thinking being reduced to crude waste management tools.

This article was authored by John Gertsakis – director, communications, and Nick Harford – managing director of Equilibrium.

Originally published on 27 August 2018 in Inside Waste online.

Know the fate of your recyclables

Not knowing where your waste is going can lead to reputational and regulatory risks. Equilibrium explains how its networks are helping the waste industry keep track of the downstream supply chain.

In 2011-12 Australia exported 4.4 million tonnes of waste valued at $2.4 million or 0.8 per cent of Australia’s total exports, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

During that year the value of Australia’s waste exports tripled to $696 million, when compared to 2000-1 levels. While recent national figures are in short supply, the National Waste Report 2016 shows 26 per cent of Victoria’s recyclables was exported overseas in 2014-15, indicating exports still remains a key part of Australia’s waste management strategy.

Keeping track of where this waste ends up can be a challenge, much less ascertaining whether the materials were subject to environmentally sound management.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provides a working definition of environmentally sound management as follows:

“A scheme for ensuring that wastes and used and scrap materials are managed in a manner that will save natural resources and protect human health and the environment against adverse effects that may result from such wastes and materials”.

According to Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium, without transparency in the downstream supply chain, recyclers leave themselves exposed to reputational and regulatory risks. The core issue is: if you’re collecting and on-selling or shipping material for recycling, do you know how it is it being recycled?

Equilibrium’s information sheet on downstream assurance services provides further detail on the process.

“Reputational risk occurs when a material that you have collected and said will be recycled is inappropriately or illegally disposed of. In the waste industry, we are all familiar with concerns about e-waste going to third world or developing nations where it’s inappropriately handled, sometimes burnt with no pollution control and at great risk to human health,” Nicholas says.

“No company wants to end up in a situation where its reputation is on the line, whether you work in council, operate a materials recovery facility or a recycling company. If you’re in local government and in collect kerbside collection, you want to be confident that the household effort is being supported by environmentally sound management.”

Nicholas explains the regulatory risk occurs through the unlawful control of hazardous material exports, and whether the end use has the correct regulatory licence or permit to operate within the country and ensure control of emissions in line with best practice.

He says it is particularly important to know where materials are going for waste streams such as e-waste and tyres. Some kerbside recyclables may also require an export or transport licence, he adds.

Nicholas says tyres may have an overlay of being potentially hazardous materials. According to the Commonwealth Hazardous Waste Act, a permit must be obtained before hazardous waste can be exported out of Australia. A basic requirement of the Act is that waste shipments may only take place between countries which are parties to the Basel Convention, except where a specific formal arrangement exists. The Australian Government has banned exports of waste for final disposal except in exceptional circumstances, therefore not knowing whether your waste is being recovered or going to landfill can leave you exposed.

Damien Wigley, General Manager, Equilibrium, explains the company offers a step-wise service to the waste industry which can help alleviate downstream supply chain uncertainty and better track waste movements.

To identify and generate downstream supply chain distribution networks, Damien says Equilibrium has used multiple platforms to inform the program and is currently considering the application of blockchain for such purposes.

“A comprehensive process is required to clearly understand the movement of waste streams initially and it can vary depending on the type of materials and where (internationally) they are being sent to.

“There may be some certification system that requires the tracking of materials and that information may be accessible by a product stewardship program or another voluntary scheme, but to understand the document trail and access it in a timely manner is complicated,” Damien says.

“We’ve invested a number of years and resources into this program, including examining numerous certification processes such as the Conflict Minerals Programme as well as the Forest Stewardship Council and how they access and develop chain of custody programs.”

An example of Equilibrium’s work is how it is assisting the Federal Government Department of the Environment and Energy and its administration of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS). Equilibrium helped the Department to develop a methodology to assess the material recovery rate of e-waste.

“We had to look at places around the world to see how the material was being recycled and ensure it was consistent with the NTCRS and specific requirements under the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations,” Nicholas says.

“We considered several certification schemes and their requirements to ensure a document trail was accessible, and to say with confidence that we knew where the material was going.”

He says it is not a straightforward process, potentially involving multiple parties who may not want to share information that they consider to be intellectual property.

Equilibrium is on hand to assist clients in developing a tailored program that is relevant to the business and meets all requirements, both internal and external.

You can download Equilibrium’s downstream assurance information sheet here.

Originally published on 13 March 2018 in Waste Management online.

Funding for resource recovery and recycling

Several government grant programs targeting resource recovery, recycling and associated activities are currently open or imminent, and worth reviewing in more detail.

A combination of recurring annual programs as well as funding triggered by the China National Sword Policy, are providing opportunities for a diverse range of projects from machinery and infrastructure, through to feasibility studies and market development.

Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have announced programs that will be of interest to councils, regional groups, businesses and social enterprises.

The following snapshot outlines several grant programs by State and funding focus.

Queensland

Detailed information is available here.

$100 million program for industry development

The Queensland Government has announced a $100 million funding program to work with business and local councils to develop a high-value resource recovery industry.

The funding will target three areas of focus:

> Infrastructure or machinery up to $5 million on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

> Incentives for the development of new large-scale facilities.

> Support for advanced feasibility studies for innovative resource recovery and waste management projects.

The funding program is planned to open later in 2018.

New South Wales

Detailed information is available here.

Product Improvement Program – Round 1
The Product Improvement Program provides industry an opportunity to identify new uses and markets for recyclable materials, and to develop local processing and remanufacturing capability to help ensure recycling services are maintained in future years. $4.5 million has been allocated to the first round of the program. Individual grants of $50,000 to $1 million are available to fund up to 50% of the capital costs for equipment and infrastructure.

Circulate, Industrial Ecology Program– Round 3
The Circulate program offers grants of between $20,000 and $150,000 to fund innovative, commercially-oriented industrial ecology projects that focus on the commercial and industrial (C&I) and construction and demolition (C&D) sectors in NSW. Circulate supports projects that will recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill, to be used as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes. Changes have been made to this round to include projects that deal with solid waste and materials not only diverted from landfill but also materials impacted by China’s National Sword Policy. A total of $2.5 million in funding is available in Round 3.

Civil Construction Market Program – Round 1
The Civil Construction Market Program offers grants of up to $250,000 to eligible organisations to promote the use of waste from one civil construction project as a useful input into another. This program aims to reduce the amount of C&D waste being sent to landfill, reduce the amount of C&D material being stockpiled and to promote innovative resource recovery activities in the NSW Civil Construction sector. Source materials have now been broadened to include glass, paper, cardboard and plastics from MRFs in NSW civil construction projects. This change is designed to help drive end markets for post-consumer recyclate. A total of $2.5 million in funding is available in Round 1.

Victoria

Detailed information is available here.

The Research and Development Grants Program supports the aims of the Victorian Market Development Strategy for Recovered Resources to stimulate markets for the use of recovered resources, increase job creation, develop quality products for end markets, and increase investment in products made from recovered resources.

The program will support the identification of markets that have the potential to use significant and consistent volumes of recovered materials.

In May 2018 a new round of $2.5m R&D grants funding was announced. The funding will provide research institutions and industry the opportunity to undertake R&D projects such as field trials that explore alternative and more value-added uses of priority waste materials. These materials include organics, rubber (tyres), e-waste, plastics, glass fines, concrete and other emerging priority materials.

The grants are expected to open in July 2018.

The Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund valued at approximately $13 million aims to support the development of infrastructure that improves the collection and processing of recycled materials. The program seeks innovative projects that will increase jobs in the resource recovery industry while also increasing the recovery of priority materials. Projects must be completed by 31 March 2021.

The Fund began in 2017 and to date two funding rounds have awarded approximately 27 infrastructure projects in metro and regional Victoria with over $9 million. The Round 1 and Round 2 projects supported so far are expected to create over 140 jobs in Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector and are expected to divert at least 500,000 tonnes of material from landfill each year. More information about the Fund’s achievements and progress to date is below.

Round 3 Grants – Applications Open

Round 3 has up to $3 million available for infrastructure grants. Projects located in and servicing Victoria can apply for between $40,000 and $500,000 in funding for infrastructure development. Infrastructure can be for collection, sorting or processing.

Round 3 is seeking projects that target food organics, rigid and soft plastics, paper and cardboard, and e-waste re-processing as priority materials. However, projects addressing the future resource recovery infrastructure needs and opportunities identified in the Regional Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plans developed by the Waste and Resource Recovery Groups (WRRGs) will also be supported.

It’s important to register your interest to apply to receive the relevant documentation to submit your proposal by 3pm, 31 July 2018.

More information

Contact Damien or Nicholas for more information about how Equilibrium can assist with grant and funding applications:

Nicholas Harford
Mobile: 0419 993 234 or nick@equil.com.au

Damien Wigley
Mobile: 0404 899 961 or damien@equil.com.au

 

 

 

Emerging environmental compliance in Victoria

The need for business transition

Protecting the environment is a major area of activity for governments and business, particularly as we face complex pollution and waste management issues that can affect human health and sensitive ecosystems.

The Victorian Government has been working systematically to modernise the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in order to meet Victoria’s environment and human health challenges. The government response to the EPA Inquiry details the suite of reforms for the overall transformation of the EPA to a world class environmental regulator. It is important to note that these are the first major reforms since the EPA was formed in 1971.

The implementation of the reforms seeks to ensure that the:

> EPA will protect Victorians’ health and their environment, preventing and reducing harmful effects of pollution and waste.

> EPA will deliver efficient, proportionate and consistent regulation which is vital for economic prosperity by ensuring Victoria is an attractive place to invest, work, live and visit.

In many respects, the reforms establish a stronger emphasis on preventing environmental harm and foreseeable hazards and risks.

Figure 1. Summary of the EPA reforms and business regulation
The need for businesses to be prepared

The process highlights the on-going need for businesses to identify compliance issues and risks and be ready to transition to new requirements in a timely and considered manner.

The Victorian Environment Protection Act has now been updated and includes new provisions for governance arrangements.

The reform agenda will also bring about significant changes as to how businesses and organisations will be regulated in regard to environmental risk. A key change is the introduction of a ‘General Duty’ that will be used to strengthen EPA capability to prevent environmental harm.

The introduction of a General Duty will involve the use of ‘Codes of Practice’, an approach that is already widely used within Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation and regulation. For example, in Victoria OHS Law and Code of Practice provides practical guidance on how to comply with relevant regulation. The VIC EPA now makes it clear that this approach provides a preferred model to apply in regard to environmental regulation in Victoria.

Adherence to Codes of Practice will certainly involve sites that require EPA Licensing and Works Approvals. Beyond such sites, the VIC EPA is looking to create a register of businesses with activities that have a regulatory significance.

Initially the register may be based on the dangerous goods notifications register managed by WorkSafe, which could involve up to 2,800 businesses. The EPA is also looking to register other businesses that have a potential higher risk profile, examples of which include dry cleaners, electroplaters, petrol stations and non-intensive agricultural businesses.

The range of activities requiring works approvals and licensing is also set to be expanded. The current recommendations involve potentially expanding licensing to:

> Waste companies
> Recyclers
> Transfer stations
> Agriculture based businesses

The EPA has put in place a five-year strategy to implement the reform recommendations.

Guidance and support for businesses

Helping companies to be prepared and ready for the reforms is an essential part of the process.

Equilibrium is well positioned to support businesses to assess and prepare for impending regulatory changes. Our depth of experience relating to environmental and OHS risk management is at the forefront when it comes to identifying and preventing harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste.

Equilibrium’s knowledge of risk analysis and developing risk management strategies is founded on working to meet compliance requirements of Environmental and OHS regulations across Australia. Our experience covers leading projects across Australia.

Regular updates on reform implementation program are available at https://engage.vic.gov.au/reform-epa

More information

Contact Nicholas Harford for more information about Equilibrium’s services and how we can support your readiness for the reforms:

Nicholas Harford
Mobile: 0419 993 234  or  nick@equil.com.au

 

Blockchain and Environmental Applications

Digital disruption applied to environmental objectives holds great potential to build transparency across the supply chain

The need to confirm, verify and certify processes and outcomes is a major element in responsible and measurable environmental management, be it to establish accurate disposal paths, quantify recovered materials or document a robust chain of data and activity.

From forestry and fisheries through to energy, carbon reduction and abatement programs and the recycling and recovery of waste, the need for unassailable digital tools is an essential part of responsible environmental management and business sustainability in the broadest sense.

How often do we hear about the need for effective ‘chain of custody’ for materials or a particular product, or for certified recycling outcomes?

Digital solutions that are free of any single vested interest, and have the architecture to enable transparency and widespread adoption, will allow organisations, and their sustainability practitioners to reach new levels of knowledge transfer, environmental performance, supplier accountability and customer confidence.

Blockchain 101

There are plenty of definitions with a recurring theme but it’s all about decentralization through a platform ‘owned by no one and useable by everyone’.  In very simple terms it’s a ‘shared record book’.

Some succinct explanations further describe its essential characteristics:

“Blockchain is a decentralized digitized database that maintains a list of records of a complete history of transactions or movements of a product.”

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Read more: Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)

Because the “chain” can’t be modified it can immediately provide proof of purchase for any transaction, whether that be procurement of sustainable materials to purchasing renewable energy.

Fundamental to the structure of blockchains is the ability to maintain encrypted copies of any information stored on every server or “node” in the network.

Blockchain systems record all transactions, enabling a transparent trail that can be easily audited, even automatically which can be used to validate transactions preventing double counting and the authenticity of chain of custodies around products and materials.

Relevance to sustainability and environmental objectives

So could the blockchain be part of the transparency revolution that business sustainability demands?

Heather Clancy, the editorial director of GreenBiz talks about the blockchain’s emerging role in sustainability in a manner that is both plausible and compelling. The scenarios she describes are clear candidates highlighting how a ‘shared record book’ can bring noteworthy environmental benefit and customer confidence through the ultimate in transparent platforms.

“Picture, if you will, a tracking system that discreetly verifies the provenance of products as they move across a supply chain — sending proactive alerts about unexpected detours that could signal potential tampering or environmental conditions that might pose safety issues. Or, imagine a database that monitors the clean electricity generated by on-site solar panels, issues renewable energy certificates as certain production thresholds are achieved, then distributes them according to predetermined contracts. Automatically.”

Clancy however is a realist and acknowledging the hype but certainly not dismissing the blockchain and its future applications. While lavish claims and embellishment are the norm for early innovations and over-excited entrepreneurs, there is a logic and clarity around why and how the blockchain can address data and verification gaps not always possible or reliable via conventional methods and systems.

“While the hype level seen during 2016 isn’t likely to last — it sometimes seems every other tech headline is rife with blockchain promises — the next few years will usher a wave of experiments. Where sustainability professionals are likely to see the most action: among utilities or renewable energy developers seeking a more efficient way of pricing and selling clean power; at consumer products companies and retailers seeking a better way of validating supply-chain claims; and among banks and insurance companies interested in verifying the provenance of minerals, commodities or raw materials.”

In support of her insights, Clancy shares some specific examples of companies to watch and how they are utilising the blockchain to address a diverse range of energy, environment and supply chain imperatives from conflict minerals and product life-cycle management all the way through to renewable energy trading:

IBM — sells a private cloud service that could help organizations develop and get blockchain applications up and running quickly. Its technology is behind pilots by retailer Walmart, for food safety, and Everledger, which certifies the origins of diamonds.

LO3 Energy — its TransactiveGrid system helps automate the trading of power across microgrids. The startup just scored a notable strategic partner, German energy management company Siemens. (A similar company is Australia’s PowerLedger.)

Nasdaq — has been investing in blockchain technology for more than three years. Its Linq service could be the foundation for new business models, such as a system for issuing renewable energy credits automatically.

Provenance — a relatively low-key London firm has piloted the use of blockchain to track tuna supply chains in Indonesia and to monitor produce for British grocer Co-op Food. It wants to make it simpler for companies to verify sustainability claims.

Skuchain — the California startup’s software is behind a test by Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo initially focused on trading cotton between Texas and China.

Heather Clancy’s article complete with more detail can be viewed at GreenBiz. It is a reader-friendly excerpt from a more comprehensive report published in partnership with Trucost in 2017. Read more: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/blockchains-emerging-role-sustainability

Indeed we have local examples. Power Ledger based in Perth has launched a successful ICO (Initial Coin Offering). The company uses a blockchain platform that allows neighbours to trade surplus energy from rooftop solar panels and batteries at prices that exceed feed-in-tariffs, as well as sharing solar panels and batteries on multi-dwelling apartment blocks and community facilities. Read more here: http://www.afr.com/news/power-ledger-builds-energy-business-amid-bitcoin-mayhem-20171215-h05c5v#ixzz55AxqIDbH

The World Economic Forum has also been proactively discussing the relevance of the blockchain and its role in helping deal with climate change and resource conservation.

In relation to climate change the WEF speculates on what’s possible, desirable and necessary staying that the blockchain features benefits for both producer and consumer, as well as other players throughout the supply chain:

“Imagine a world in which carbon emissions and credits can be tracked transparently and reliably. Retailers will be able to sell a product and take into account the carbon impact it creates at the same time. Governments will be able to measure, track and trade emissions transparently. And crucially, for the first time consumers will be able to understand the environmental impact of the products they are buying – both positive and negative – at the point of sale, and will be able to mitigate this in an instant, with millions of micro-transactions scaling up to make a huge collective impact.”  Read more: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/carbon-currency-blockchain-poseidon-ecosphere/

New uses and applications emerge weekly which also highlights that the platform has captured the imagination of innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as the major financial institutions who have much to gain and lose should they not understand its potential.

The here and now of the blockchain is mostly being used in cryptocurrency because of its two main advantages i.e. the highly secure nature of the platform, and its transparency. These attributes have been quickly identified by users as the ‘shared record book’ reaches into new markets and solutions, including:

> Plastic Bank: uses blockchain technology to pay for the collection of plastic in poverty-stricken areas reducing the overall waste.

> Poseidon+: carbon credit market that will allow consumers to purchase climate positive products and having the confidence to trust it because of blockchain tracking.

> Catenaut: is blockchain made for a timber supply chain, knowing where the timber comes from and the amount coming in accurately.

Ultimately the blockchain delivers a degree of transparency that in fact spawns new uses, or improved uses compared to conventional, less-secure methods and systems.

A blockchain future will be able to:

> track energy in a decentralized system
> track products from cradle to grave/ tracking products that may be reused/recycled
> track food sources i.e. consumers knowing where it comes from. Seeing food miles and other information
> continually track products across and throughout the supply chain
> accurately audit supply chains as it provides a clear paper trail of products that cannot be tampered

Its success and widespread application will in part depend on compelling, evidence-based case-studies that stimulate thinking across sectors and industries, including energy, water, waste, mining, agriculture and fisheries.

If the blockchain can achieve a step-change improvement in relation to accurate data sharing, verification, monitoring and tracking, then we are likely to see greater uptake over the coming months and years. And if its application can directly and indirectly contribute to achieving a more resource efficient and productive sustainable future then its value-adding capacity is noteworthy.

It could also be the platform that helps to underpin the circular economy and its focus on extending the life of products, components and materials to unprecedented levels.

Transparency combined with closed loops is a powerful partnership in pursuit of regenerative and restorative solutions.

Authored by: John Gertsakis and Tom Pollock from Equilibrium
31 January 2018

 

Equilibrium Joins C2P as a Knowledge Partner

Global advisory company Compliance & Risks tracks global policies, regulations and standards across key product and policy areas.

It is one of the most trusted names in compliance knowledge management, and provides a range of tools and services to help companies effectively manage the avalanche of global regulations as businesses struggle to keep up with market access rules.

Equilibrium is very pleased to announce that it has joined Compliance & Risks as a Knowledge Partner covering content for the Australian market.  We are well placed to share our knowledge and insights to the benefit of businesses who understand the broader benefits of being a sustainable enterprise.

A key tool in liberating businesses from an otherwise complex regulatory landscape is C2P: a comprehensive, online product compliance knowledge management platform. Compliance & Risks has developed and expanded C2P over many years of detailed development. It is supported by some of the best legal, business, supply chain and environmental specialists, who bring local regulatory news and insights from around the world.

Reporting on policy and regulatory initiatives in Australia

Specifically, Equilibrium will be contributing compliance news, alerts, key dates and commentary to C2P on a variety of topics including: batteries, climate change, conflict minerals, CSR, ecodesign and ecolabeling, e-waste/WEEE, waste management and resource recovery, energy efficiency, packaging, transport of dangerous goods and hazardous substances.

Equilibrium holds a wealth of experience related to many of these topics and will be able to share its knowledge with C2P customers around the world. This is increasingly important as many companies and governments transition to circular thinking and action.

Many of C2P customers include major blue-chip companies, OEMs and brands from the following industries:

– Electronics, lighting and telecommunications
Medical devices and chemicals
Energy and HVAC
Textiles
Automotive
Toys

Equilibrium’s contribution to C2P will reach companies in 120 countries around the world, and help ensure that they are kept abreast of key policy and regulatory developments in Australia. This includes the review of the Product Stewardship Act, proposals to develop a national battery recycling scheme, stewardship for photovoltaics and energy storage and progress on the e-waste landfill ban for Victoria.

Visit the Compliance & Risks website for more information about C2P, and make contact with Equilibrium about local compliance related issues.

More information

John Gertsakis
Director, Communications
Equilibrium
Mobile:  0409 422 089
Email:  john@equil.com.au

 

NRMA – Child restraint recycling trial a triple-whammy win for community

Road safety, environmental benefits and regional jobs: a program that can deliver on any of these targets could expect the support of NRMA, so a scheme that has ready-made outcomes for all three gets our full attention – and it deserves yours too.

Add to that the fact that children and the disabled are the primary beneficiaries and it’s clear that the child car safety seat stewardship trial has the potential to deliver enormous positives for the community.

In order to ensure a permanent recycling program, Equilibrium must demonstrate significant community engagement and support. People with used and expired child restraints are urged to drop them at the following locations to support this valuable trial:

Kiama Community Recycling Centre: 446 Riverside Dr, Minnamurra.

Penrith Community Recycling Centre:Gate 3, 96 Dunheved Circuit, St Marys.

Tamworth Community Recycling Centre: 123a Forest Road, Tamworth.

Nudgee Resource Recovery Centre, 1402 Nudgee Rd, Nudgee Beach, Queensland

Willawong Resource Recovery Centre, 360 Sherbrooke Rd, Willawong, Queensland.

Reedy Creek Community Waste and Recycling Centre, 61 Hutchinson Street, Burleigh Heads, Queensland.

Darebin Resource Recovery Centre, 30 Kurnai Avenue, Reservoir Victoria

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