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Category Archives: Product Stewardship

NZ moves on regulated product stewardship

The New Zealand Government is proposing a new way to deal with environmentally harmful products before they become waste, including plastic packaging and bottles, as part of a wider plan to avoid rubbish ending up in landfill.

Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage released a public consultation document titled, “Proposed priority products and priority product stewardship scheme guidelines” at the Sustainability Trust in Wellington today (9 August 2019)

You can download the consultation paper here.

“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation and want to help ensure we live up to it.

“Well-designed product stewardship schemes ensure that those making, selling and using products all help take responsibility to recover the materials and avoid them ending up in landfills,” Eugenie Sage said.

“This is the first time that Government has been serious about creating regulated, rather than voluntary, product stewardship schemes in New Zealand.

“Regulated product stewardship is a step towards changing that and to designing waste out of production. This is part of a longer-term goal of moving to a more efficient, low-emissions, sustainable and inclusive economy for New Zealand.

“Regulated product stewardship helps puts the responsibility for effective material and waste management on product manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature,” she said.

Priority product categories proposed for regulated product stewardship schemes are:

> packaging, including beverage containers and plastic packaging
> tyres
> electrical and electronic products (e-waste), starting with lithium-ion
> batteries
> refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases
> agrichemicals and their containers and other farm plastics.

“This is the first time the tools for regulated product stewardship in the Waste Minimisation Act are being looked at seriously, although they have been in the Act since 2008.

“The 14 existing accredited schemes are all voluntary. While some, such as the Agrecovery scheme for agricultural chemical containers have provided significant benefits, much more can be achieved with a comprehensive regulated scheme which creates a level playing field and helps reduce waste and the risk of environmental from it.

“Today’s proposal also presents potential economic benefits. Many products and materials presently lost to landfill could be recovered and reused throughout the economy creating new business opportunities and new jobs.

“Products that have reached the end of their life can be used to make something new, especially if they are designed better for reuse and recycling.

“Consultation is the first step towards regulation, deciding which products are declared ‘priority products’ and allowing mandatory regulation to be used under the Waste Minimisation Act.

The next step will be to work with business and other stakeholders to co-design regulations that will work for them and the environment” Eugenie Sage Said.

Overseas experience shows that this can be done at minimal new cost to business or consumers. Before any regulations are passed, the costs and benefits will be fully spelled out and consulted on.

Consultation on what products should be considered is open now and closes on October 4 2019. Learn more here: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/priorityproducts

More information

If you are an Australian-based supplier, manufacturer or brand operating in the New Zealand market and need some guidance or support with the consultation process, contact Nick Harford at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

Stewardship for solar panels attracts attention

As rooftop solar continues to boom, the future fate of photovoltaic panels is attracting greater scrutiny including active investigation of a national stewardship scheme to manage their recovery, refurbishment and recycling.

A recent story by ABC News investigated the growing pressure to ensure that end-of-life solar panels do not end up in landfill, especially given the valuable and scarce materials used to make them in the first instance.

The expected volumes of old and damaged panels is growing  with the ABC story reporting that 1,500 kilotons of obsolete PVs likely to reach end-of-life by 2050. This highlights the need to develop and implement national solutions, including potential stewardship programs that result in effective, safe and environmentally sound decommissioning and recycling of panels.

Sustainability Victoria is leading a national project to examine photovoltaic systems and assess possible options for stewardship programs to potentially manage the products at end-of-life.

The project is timely given the recent ban of ewaste to landfill in Victoria, which includes solar panels, inverters and battery storage.

Equilibrium was appointed by Sustainability Victoria to undertake an analysis and assess potential options for a national product stewardship approach.

Solar panels and associated products and equipment have been identified as a rapidly growing e-waste stream in future years.  For the Sustainability Victoria project “PV systems” have been defined to include panels and PV system accessories such as inverter equipment and energy storage systems.

For more information about Sustainability Victoria’s project on stewardship for PV systems look here.

More information

For more information contact Nick Harford at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

 

A circular economy policy for Victoria

The transition to a circular economy is underway across industries, sectors and communities. Noteworthy practical measures are in play as are policy development processes across all levels of government.

The Victorian Government has also commenced public consultation on developing a circular economy policy and action plan to be released in late 2019.

An issues paper has been released and invites input, ideas and circular economy stories to help shape and inform a draft policy for further consultation during September and October 2019.

The deadline for submissions is 2 August 2019 and additional detail on how to provide feedback can be found here.

A circular economy pathway can facilitate system-wide transformation across the economy and portfolios with  potential to deliver responsible prosperity that is planned and sustainable.

The policy will be supported by a ten year action that will outline more specific initiatives on how the Victorian Government will involve the community, industry and other relevant stakeholders.

The consultation process provides a valuable opportunity to solicit input that can move beyond conventional waste management activities with a view to achieving higher levels of waste avoidance and sustainable materials management that is restorative, regenerative and low carbon.

Equilibrium will be responding to the issues paper on behalf of clients and we look forward to supporting other organisations share their views and solutions with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

More information

For more information contact Nick Harford at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

 

 

 

 

 

Perspectives on a Circular Economy

The thinking behind a circular economy is not new, but the policies and programs required to bring about positive change demand fresh approaches and system-wide thinking that can enable alternative business models.

A growing number of governments worldwide, researchers and companies are recognising that the ‘take-make-waste’ model is failing society and the environment.  A throw-away culture driven by brands and retailers who feed unsustainable levels of consumption is reflecting on its way forward and the structural changes that must be implemented.

In Australia we are seeing evidence of how some companies are approaching circular thinking and solutions, and we are also witnessing some state governments embrace the shift to a circular economy, namely South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

The efforts however are chiefly (but not always) focused on low-hanging fruit and incremental steps around waste reduction, recycled content and recycling as opposed to economy-wide initiatives that dematerialise, decarbonise, regenerate and fundamentally pursue closed loop, zero-waste products and services.

It’s not a straightforward transition, nor is it one free of risk, cost and dramatic changes in how we produce and consume.   But it is a transition that will change mindsets and the way we view products, materials and concepts of ownership and function.

So it is refreshing and energising to see some organisations embrace the need for positive change by viewing the circular economy as a catalyst for doing things differently and doing things better while adopting the circular principles.

Equilibrium has had the opportunity to share some insights and case-studies of how a circular economy can be expressed through strategies that go beyond recycling and test the relevance of dematerialisation, sharing, leasing, product durability and repair. Not necessarily perfect or large scale, but nonetheless holistic, life-cycle oriented, and free of brand-driven spin.

Recent presentations to the Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group, as well as the Rail Industry Standards and Safety Board, provided a forum to test what the circular economy means to diverse stakeholders, but also gauge where different organisations are at with their own thinking and implementation.

If you’re interested in the transition to a circular economy and need to investigate its relevance and practical application, you should make contact with the team at Equilibrium. We can also share some of our presentations as a starting point to inform and engage.

More information

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

 

 

 

China National Sword and its impact in Australia

The noise around China’s National Sword Policy has been significant and a trigger for diverse responses, some of which are measurable and forward-thinking, while others are more symbolic and reactive.

A key question is whether or not Australia has adjusted its recycling habits?

The China National Sword Policy formulated in September 2017, and announced by the Chinese Government to the world in January 2018, was centered on enforcing a new policy by banning 24 types of wastes and recyclables from entering the country.

Designed to improve its own environmental performance, the decision has changed globally how countries manage and process their recyclables. Twelve months along what has that decision meant to Australia and what really has changed in how we are processing and managing our recyclables?

Over a year on, Rick Ralph unbundles the facts around this complex policy decision with Nick Harford, managing director of Equilibrium and one of Australia’s leading experts on the subject.

Listen to the podcast of this conversation for an informed suite of insights and observations.

Download or listen here

 

ACOR Briefing Paper: Mandatory Product Stewardship Schemes

While all schemes can be improved, the current regulated take-back programs are producing good results, and there has been no demonstrable consumer concern about their cost.

Under the Product Stewardship Act 2011, schemes can be established to manage different products and materials in order to reduce their life-cycle impacts on the environment and on human health and safety.

Mandatory schemes involve enabling regulations to be made that would require some persons to take specified action in relation to products. Such requirements might include restricting the
manufacture or import of products, prohibiting products from containing particular substances, labelling and packaging requirements and other requirements relating to reusing, recycling,
recovering, treating or disposing of products.

A briefing paper prepared by Equilibrium for the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) identifies the likely costs of operating mandatory product stewardship schemes for tyres, mattresses and e-waste.

In considering the potential costs of a mandatory product stewardship scheme for various products, it is assumed that there will be development and set-up costs such as Regulatory Impact Statements, technical assessments and legal costs that will be borne by Government and industry participants / liable parties.

A copy of the briefing paper can be viewed on the ACOR website.

Commonwealth Games’ Legacy for Queensland

It’s coming up to 12 months since the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games were delivered and many of the positive outcomes are still felt throughout the city.

Three core sustainability themes identified for GC2018 were to source responsibly, manage impacts and inspire inclusion.

Significant tangible benefits were delivered in regard to infrastructure improvements, world class venues, and an efficient public transport system. Moreover, many long lasting intangible benefits to the Gold Coast’s culture have come directly from the wide-reaching sustainability initiatives of the Games and are a crucial legacy associated with the event.

Building peaceful, prosperous and sustainable communities  

Many key environmental outcomes aiming to ‘manage impacts’ inspired positive sustainable behaviours. The Commonwealth Games Corporation’s (GOLDOC) initiative to reduce single use, short term plastic items, resulted in no helium balloons, no lightweight plastic bags and no plastic straws provided at any of the Games venues. The ChooseTap campaign saw 14 permanent hydration stations installed across the city, saving approximately 1,780,497 plastic bottles from being consumed. These outcomes are noteworthy.

Highlight trade and investment opportunities in Australia

A key aspect of this initiative and the ‘source responsibly’ theme was sustainable procurement. After an initial hot-spot analysis, GOLDOC developed a Sustainable Sourcing Code to ensure all suppliers met minimum requirements in terms of social and environmental impacts. For stand-alone high-risk procurements, a Sustainability Category Management Plan was completed, further highlighting the commitment to sustainable procurement and also providing a knowledge transfer legacy.

Local and indigenous procurement options were chosen where possible, with 75% of supply agreements from the Gold Coast and over 95% from Australia and New Zealand. Figures for Indigenous supplier contracts by value exceeded 166% of the initial target rate, with 168 contracts. This commitment to local and indigenous suppliers greatly supported positive legacies for the region.

Increased sense of inclusion, diversity and community pride in Queensland communities

The third sustainable theme to ‘inspire inclusion’ truly helped to transform the culture of the Gold Coast. GC2018 was the first of its kind to have a Reconciliation Plan and the commitment to celebrating indigenous heritage was clear from the launch of the Queen’s Baton at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen was accompanied by Yugambeh Elders Ted Williams and Patricia O’Connor. The same elders accompanied Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cambridge to the stage in the Opening Ceremony.  In fact, the opening ceremony was full of traditional theatre, dance, music and visual arts. The celebrations throughout the Games included numerous indigenous flavours showcased on the menu in the Village Main Dining Hall, indigenous art patterns on the Borobi Mascot design and the Parade of Nations track.

The Festival 2018 Gold Coast program included a diversity of cultures, with fifty countries and all Commonwealth regions represented through music, performance and film. Gender equality was also a priority within the Festival and Games. GC2018 was the first Games in history with an equal number of medal events for women and men. GOLDOC participated in the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) in 2016 and 2017 to assess and inform their inclusivity of the LGBTIQ Community.

Celebrations during GC2018 included the Festival’s Sparkle in the Sand which highlighted the Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is still a crime and Pride House, a welcoming space for LGBTI athletes, fans, visitors and allies. It housed LGBTI entertainment and exhibitions, and received over 5,000 visitors.

Inclusion and accessibility of events included the installation of ramps and hoists within existing and temporary venues. The Sports Ears system was provided at the opening and closing ceremonies and at all venues with sports presentation commentary. Moreover, every venue had a space for Service Dogs and Spectator Services volunteers were appropriately trained.

Demonstrate a leading model for sustainable event delivery on the Gold Coast

These initiatives are but a sample of the extensive work done by GOLDOC and the Sustainability Team to integrate social and environmental efforts into all aspects of the GC2018 games. The work of the team cultivated a strong focus on “inspiring positive, meaningful change in perceptions, attitudes and actions.” These intangible benefits have left a lasting legacy for tourism events in Queensland and truly demonstrate a leading model for sustainable event delivery on the Gold Coast and beyond.

Sustainability Report (Post Games), GOLDOC 2018: https://gc2018.com/sites/default/files/2018-08/Sustainability%20Report%20-%20Post%20Games%20(Final).pdf

Equilibrium, in partnership with Tasman Environmental Services, completed a Carbon Assessment and Management Plan for the Games. More details on this can be found in our previous blog post https://equil.com.au/2018/05/01/gc2018-low-carbon-competition/

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters, Environmental Consultant at Equilibrium.

February 2019

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

Photovoltaic Systems Stewardship Study

Online survey available for interested stakeholders

Sustainability Victoria (SV) is leading a national project to examine photovoltaic systems and assess possible options for stewardship programs to potentially manage the products at end-of-life.

Product stewardship specialist Equilibrium has been appointed by Sustainability Victoria to undertake an analysis and assess potential options for a national product stewardship approach.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels and associated products and equipment have been identified as a rapidly growing e-waste stream in future years.  For this project “PV systems” have been defined to include panels and PV system accessories such as inverter equipment and energy storage systems.

As part of the project, Equilibrium welcomes input and information from manufacturers, installers, project developers, the energy industry, peak bodies and others .

Information and evidence gathered will support the assessment of potential options.

Stakeholder survey available online

Organisations and individuals interested in the project can complete a short online survey here:  http://bit.ly/PVs-survey

The deadline for completing the survey is COB Monday 27th August 2018.

For more information about the project or the survey, contact Damien Wigley at Equilibrium at:  damien@equil.com.au

 

 

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