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Category Archives: Product Stewardship

Manufacturing and Life Cycle Assessment

The manufacturing industry plays an important role in global economic development, however it contributes to a significant share of negative environmental impacts in the form of pollution and waste. Manufacturing companies are subject to increasing pressure from consumers and legislation to improve their own activities towards more environmentally conscious manufacturing processes which create less environmentally damaging products. This pressure calls for product designers and production engineers to identify improvement measures for existing manufacturing systems, as well as create innovative concepts for new products. These investigations need to consider the entire life cycle of the manufacturing system and product, including the impacts related to production, use and end of life disposal. 

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool used by companies and product designers to better understand their products’ overall and complete impacts – positive and negative. It helps businesses to quantify impacts at the various stages and provides insights  to improve performance and reduce environmental impacts. 

Why undertake an LCA? There are various reasons:

Stakeholder and consumer expectations: Increasingly consumers are seeking products with reduced environmental impacts, this is reflected in product purchasing choices.
> Industry directions: The manufacturing industry in Australia has a leading role in improving sustainability of its products.
> Voluntary environmental management systems: ISO 14001 is driving continuous improvement and uncovering business efficiency. 

While the key objectives for an LCA often begin with aiming to better understand environmental footprint, the framework can be used to assess other issues including economic and social factors. Examples may include:

> Uncovering production losses, which manufacturing business may refer to as ‘scrap rates’.
> Identifying areas of high energy use, where if savings can be made, will reduce costs and greenhouse emissions.
> Transport and logistics reviews may reveal options to reduce emissions and save costs.
> Raw materials choice for manufacture, including reviewing supplier social procurement practices to protect business reputation.

Businesses that are currently assessing their internal footprint are already on the path to developing an LCA. Examples of this include energy efficiency studies, where energy per unit production helps set a benchmark for assessing business improvements. 

If you would like to know more about LCA’s and how an LCA study may help your business development please contact us.

A simple diagram of life cycle assessment

 

 

Addressing barriers to Product Stewardship in Australia

Product stewardship calls for companies, supply chains and retailers to take greater responsibility for their services and products across their whole life cycle, from design to production to use and, finally, disposal. 

Earlier in July the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence released a white paper report “Addressing the Barriers: A needs assessment of product stewardship in Australia.” The paper aims to explore and understand the barriers to product stewardship in Australia, investigating opportunities for further development and expansion of product stewardship across the nation.

The paper discusses the major challenge such as free-riders; businesses or organisations that may benefit from product stewardship activity without contributing to the implementation or operation. 

Although not discussed in the paper, the voluntary trend of product stewardship in Australia is also an issue to consider. 

This trend is a particularly Australian phenomenon, as most other countries support regulatory approaches. Australian industry leadership towards product stewardship should be congratulated. For example, the recent announcement of the Australian Toy Association partnering with other leading brands to investigate product stewardship of toys, and the recognition of best practice for Tyre Stewardship Australia are positive developments. 

However, similar to the free-riding organisations, companies and industries who use voluntary as a means to defer, delay or avoid responsibility should be brought to account. 

Voluntary approaches cannot be realistically expected to work in a timely manner where there is no industry agreement and coordination, and where the brand owners are diffuse, have little or no local decision-making authority or are no longer trading. In such cases it at best will be a slow process and many years before some sort of voluntary approach is figured out. 

In general, the need for government intervention is generally greater the more complex the products and supply chain.

For product stewardship broadly to meet community expectations, to reach waste and recycling targets, to discourage free-riders and to support genuine leadership efforts, there therefore needs to be clear market signals that government will regulate when and where needed. 

While the Centre’s white paper correctly highlights key barriers, overcoming them will require the government to act where appropriate to put pressure on industry and ensure accountability, and that includes judicious use of regulatory powers.

Toy Industry to collaborate and develop sustainability solutions

The Australian Toy Association (ATA) has been supported with a through the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) delivered by Sustainability Victoria. This is a world first for the toy industry and another example of an industry taking responsibility for its products.

In collaboration with leading toy industry brands and retailers, the funding enables the ATA to develop and investigate circular economy options for toys. The project’s first stage will develop a material flows analysis, building an understanding of the movement of toys through the economy. The results of the analysis will link into the overarching project to develop solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of toys. 

Equilibrium congratulates ATA for their leadership and vision and is excited to partner with them on this project in developing circular economy options for toys.

Keeping Child Car Safety Seats Out of Landfill

A program to recover and recycle old, unwanted and potentially unsafe child car safety seats will take a major step forward with a grant from the Australian Government through the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF).

The grant will enable the development of SeatCare, a program that aims to help the public safely dispose of used child car safety seats for recycling. It is planned that SeatCare will commence in 2021 and if successful the program will be rolled out nationally over two to three years.

Equilibrium, in collaboration with a group of manufacturers, retailers and child safety and automotive organisations, is designing the program that aims to improve road safety while also reducing waste to landfill and costs to the community through illegal dumping of child car safety seats.

Organisations working together on this national initiative include: Baby Bunting, Infasecure, Dorel, Britax, Kidsafe, NRMA, RAA and Equilibrium.

SeatCare aims to provide a unique community service consistent with the targets and priorities in the Australian Government’s National Waste Policy Action Plan.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans MP, said that we are shifting the dial in Australia as we change our mindset to thinking about waste as a resource and move towards a more circular economy.

“This new product stewardship scheme for old, unwanted or obsolete child car safety seats will reduce waste going to landfill, lift recycling rates and help consumers make a practical, positive difference for the environment”.

Child car safety seats have a limited life-span and their integrity can be compromised by factors such as accidents, time/age, temperature and sunlight and general wear and tear from use and moving them in and out of vehicles numerous times.

At present, there is no program to support the take-back of old child car safety seats in Australia. A trial in 2018-2019 found there is a growing public desire for a program and that it is feasible to recover the seats and dismantle them.

It is estimated that over 200,000 child car seats are disposed of every year, with the majority being sent to landfill. This is despite the fact that over 80% of child car safety seats can be recycled once dismantled.

SeatCare aims to provide parents and carers with a free and environmentally-friendly option for disposing of their old child car restraints. By collecting and disassembling the seats on-site, the program aims to divert in excess of 900 tonnes of waste away from landfill and back into the recycling stream.

It is expected that the SeatCare scheme will accept a variety of child car safety seats and associated accessories including:

> Rear facing carriers and forward facing seats
> Booster seats
> Car seat and carrier frames, as well as strapping
> Items that attach directly to the seat or carrier supported by the manufacturer

The NPSIF has been created to support product stewardship schemes which reduce waste and prevent harmful materials from ending up in landfill. These schemes increase recycling activity and the recovery of valuable materials from the products we use every day.

The full Equilibrium media release can be downloaded here

The Ministers’ media release can be viewed here

The list of successful recipients and projects under the NPSIF can be viewed here

For media comment or further information about the SeatCare program, contact Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961 

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Repair

According to MobileMuster, 33 per cent of Australians have repaired their mobile phones and it is expected the number of people reusing devices will increase over time as younger Australians are more likely to opt for repairing or purchasing second hand phones.

Right to Repair is a consumer’s ability to restore faulty goods, or access repairing services, at a competitive price. This can include repairing by a manufacturer, a third-party, or self-repair.

The inquiry will consider a range of issues impacting the Australian repair market, including potential barriers and enablers of greater competition.

It will draw on international experience and examine Right to Repair mechanisms that support consumer rights, promote competition in the repair market, and encourage product design requirements to extend product life and reduce e-waste.

The Productivity Commission will undertake broad public consultation, including with state and territory governments. The inquiry is due to report to Government within twelve months.

The terms of reference can be found at the Productivity Commission website.

Repairing a product can be a strategy for waste avoidance and reduction in some product classes, including vehicles, consumer electronics, IT equipment and appliances.

If your company, industry association or local council is looking to explore and understand the relevance of repairing a product as part of the waste management process, please don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356.

Next Level Product Stewardship Keynote Session

The relevance of product  stewardship is gaining momentum in policy circles and several industries, but how do we move beyond collection and recycling schemes to more effectively address life-cycle environmental priorities and stimulate new business opportunities?

Equilibrium’s John Gertsakis will be presenting one of the keynote sessions at the SA Waste & Resource Recovery Conference being held from the 28-29 October 2020 at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Hosted by the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, the the conference theme for 2020 is ‘outside the square, inside the circle’. John’s presentation will discuss why product stewardship needs to step-up and take more practical action back up the supply chain and across the product or material life-cycle.

Yesterday’s stewardship models, while important necessary, are proving inadequate in many cases and fail to genuinely embed key circular economy principles such as product durability, reuse, repair and alternative consumption models.

The Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 and the proposed Centre of Excellence, provide a timely launching point for John’s presentation to consider how Australia might accelerate the adoption of product and materials stewardship across diverse industries and sectors.

The transition to a circular economy will require smarter solutions that acknowledge the role of circular design in preventative measures rather than current scenarios focused on managing end-of-life products and materials.

John will discuss how stewardship can achieve greater gains by being life-cycle oriented and outcome focused.

The SA Waste & Resource Recovery Conference will feature a range of speakers  discussing product stewardship and provides a well-timed forum to explore how the Australia’s immense talent can ‘turbo-charge’ the successful uptake of next-level product stewardship policy and operations.

The full conference program is now available and can be viewed here.

For more information on John and the rest of the team, visit our About Us page.

Recycling Bill enters Parliament

Recycling and waste reduction continue to receive unprecedented attention in Australia as governments seek to build a thriving industry that is better equipped to transform waste products and materials into value-added resources.

The Australian Government has today introduced new  legislation that sees Australia take greater responsibility for its waste and establishes a national industry framework for recycling.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 will phase in the end of the 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year.

At the same time the reforms to the regulation of product stewardship will incentivise companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture and what happens to those products and materials at the end of their life.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Bill will see the implementation of the export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in March this year.

“This is about tackling a national environmental issue that has been buried in landfill or shipped offshore for far too long,” Minister Ley said. That is why the Morrison Government is the first federal government to place waste firmly on the national agenda.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity as we move to a circular economy with a strong market for recycled materials.

“Our $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund and our actions under the National Waste Policy Action Plan will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years – that is a 32 per cent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector.

“We are introducing legislation; we are driving a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity and we are investing in new technologies and new ideas to transform recycling and reprocessing.”

Accelerating product stewardship activity

Product stewardship has also received a boost through specific adjustments and enhancements under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill.

Assistant Minister Evans said the legislation will improve the existing framework for product stewardship by encouraging companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate through the products they design, manufacture or distribute.

“We are making it easier for industry to set up and join in product stewardship schemes. Yet where voluntary product stewardship schemes are not effective, or where they are not created in priority areas, the government will have new tools to intervene and regulate,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Our legislative changes will transform our waste industry, meaning increased recycling and remanufacturing of waste materials which will create new industry and generate more jobs.”

The Bill and associated package of funding and investment heralds a new era in Australia’s approach to waste management. It reflects a more considered approach aimed at improving our ability to process and manage waste in-country while also maximising the business opportunities resulting from industry-led product stewardship schemes.

Effective implementation across all levels of government and industry will be key to measurable success, as will an informed public demanding environmentally improved products and services built around circular economy principles.

The future of waste reduction, reuse and recycling in Australia is forging new territory based on nationwide collaboration, innovation and the need for manufacturers to take greater responsibility for their products and materials across the the supply chain from cradle to cradle.

The Australian Government’s media release can be viewed here.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 can be downloaded here.

 

Effective Labels Crucial for Better Recycling

Consumers are well placed to make better decisions about how and where to recycle their packaging.  Ensuring that the public is well informed will help reduce contamination and improve overall recycling performance.

An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging has revealed a situation that is confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The audit – conducted by  Equilibrium – took place across supermarkets, take-away outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities, found 88% of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, but that only 40% of these products had a recycling claim present on them.

Additional findings are:

> 55% of imported products and 64% of Australian products sampled displayed a recyclability claim of any kind;
> 23% of products had the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) promoted by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
29% of products had the “Mobius Loop” recycling symbol;
> 29% of plastic products had a resin code symbol which is often mistaken for a recyclability symbol;
> The Tidyman logo appeared on 15% of products sampled, including both recyclable and non-recyclable products; and
> There was no consistent style, placement, or sizing of recyclable labels.

The audit indicates that recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be and contamination  is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70% plastics recycling (from our current 12%).

ACOR fully supports the report’s recommendations, including:

> Labels need to be specific about the management methods of all components, and also include instructions to avoid contamination;
> There needs to be a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market;
> The preferred label should be made mandatory and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and systems as they come online to recycle more products;
> The “Mobius Loop” could cause consumer confusion, and a short cut to achieving greater clarity and consistency is to remove these and plastic resin codes from packaging; and
> There is a role for authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in driving and ensuring clarity and consistency in environmental claims and labels pertaining to recycling.

The ACOR media release published on 20 August 2020 can be viewed here.

The audit report can be downloaded here.

NSW Grants for Solar Panel Reuse and Recycling

The NSW Government is investing $10 million to help improve environmental performance by diverting end-of-life solar panel systems from landfill, with the first round of grants now open.

Although current waste volumes are relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end-of-life. In NSW it is forecast that this waste stream could generate up to 10,000 tonnes per year by 2025 and up to 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

EPA Director Circular Economy Kathy Giunta said the investment in recycling through this Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries.

“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.

“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” Kathy Giunta said.

The NSW Government is now inviting Expressions of Interest for grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems. Applications for projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling can be made until 17 September 2020.

$2 million is available in this funding round, with the remaining funding to be made available following evaluation of this EOI process.

Scoping study

As part of the background to establishing the the circular solar trials fund, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commissioned a scoping study (PDF 3.8MB) to assist in development of the EPA’s end-of-life solar programs. It contains information that may help organisations preparing EOIs, including:

> projected waste generation volumes
> materials that can be recovered from solar panels and batteries
> reuse and recycling technologies
> end-market opportunities

The study was conducted by the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures and Equilibrium.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH  (03) 9372 5356 if you need support or help in preparing an EOI for the grant program.

Be sure to stay updated on our blog page for future grant opportunities.

For more information visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/grants/infrastructure-fund/circular-solar-trials-expression-of-interest

Boosting Product Stewardship Outcomes

The Australian Government has taken a major step-up on product stewardship policy reforms and funding aimed at encouraging manufacturers, retailers and industry groups to take greater responsibility for the entire life-cycle of the products they produce and sell.

The recurring theme and expectation on product stewardship in recent announcements by the Environment Minister is clear:

“We are building more capacity in our recycling sector and we need industry and brands to take greater responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts,”  said Minister Ley.

The reforms and funding are also taking a broader view of what product stewardship can and should do to better manage Australia’s waste challenges and make effective use of recycled materials in manufacturing, construction and infrastructure. Circular product design, reuse, repair and increased support for new stewardship schemes are just some of the recommendations and measures that the Government is seeking enable and facilitate.

The proposals are being put forward as the Morrison Government today launches the first round of grants from its new $20 million Product Stewardship Investment Fund to ensure manufacturers, retailers and industry groups take greater responsibility for the entire life-cycle of the products they produce and sell.

Grants of up to $1 million will be available for individual applicants to expand existing schemes or develop new ones, with first round applications already open.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the fund was a critical part of the Morrison Government’s billion-dollar recycling strategy ensuring that there are clear streams for collection, processing and remanufacture.

“We are building more capacity in our recycling sector and we need industry and brands to take greater responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts,” she said.

“There will be a particular focus on e-waste, ensuring that anything with a plug or a battery is subject to an industry scheme.

“Solar panels, batteries, and even non electronic items like child car seats all have recyclable components which shouldn’t be wasted in landfill.

It’s  noteworthy to  read that the Government is using the reforms and investment to both recognise proactive product stewardship initiatives by industry, but also to formally highlight and monitor those industries and companies that move slowly, resist stewardship action and remain indifferent to their corporate social and environmental responsibility.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans explained how product stewardship schemes would reduce the impact of products on the environment and create new job opportunities for Australians.

“This funding will shift the dial in Australia as we change our mindsets to thinking about waste as a resource,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“There will be strong economic and environmental benefits from turbo-charging product stewardship.

Review of the Product Stewardship Act

The  Government also released the Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011, supporting all 26 recommendations to improve product stewardship outcomes, including:

> establishing a new Centre of Excellence to mentor and drive best practice product stewardship schemes across the nation

> broadening the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all electrical and electronic products (e-waste), so that all consumer products with a plug or battery can be recycled

> shifting the emphasis from stand-alone products to entire material streams

> reducing the costs and improving the benefits of scheme accreditation so consumers have confidence in their recycling

> strengthening the Minister’s priority products list to encourage brands to work together towards an industry-led scheme by adding clear timeframes

> calling out those letting consumers and their industry down by not participating in a scheme.

Grant applications for new Product Stewardship Investment Fund are now available at www.business.gov.au

Equilibrium has a long history of successful involvement in scheme design review, communications and auditing across various product classes, and we look forward to seeing the reforms and investment expand the diversity of measurable product stewardship activity nationwide.

To read an Equilibrium piece on Next Level Product Stewardship, follow this link.

If you are interested in the Product Stewardship Investment Fund, or need advice or assistance with your submissions and initial inquiries, we’re eager to support your efforts.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Equilibrium team on BH (03) 9372 5356.