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Category Archives: Product Stewardship

Recycling Victoria: A New Economy

The Victorian Government is seeking to improve the performance of the waste and recycling sector, and has released a 10-year policy and action plan – Recycling Victoria – to reform the system with a focus on the circular economy.

Victoria exports approximately 1.27million tonnes of paper, plastic and cardboard each year overseas, and this includes 30% of all recycling collected from Victorian households.

The figures are compelling; it is estimated that by 2046, Victorians will create 40% more waste than in 2017-18. The extent of the activity and industry development is significant as highlighted by the total quantum of funding that has poured into Victorian waste and resource recovery initiatives; $134 million from the Victorian Government since 2015.

You can download a copy the Recycling Victoria policy here.

A four bin waste and recycling system, a container deposit system (CDS), a circular economy business innovation centre, landfill levy reform and increased funding for infrastructure, are among the package of measures outlined in the policy.

The policy in part talks about the transition to a circular economy and the importance of taking action across the life-cycle of materials to maximise value and minimise waste.

Four specific goals

Four specific goals guide the process of moving from a take-make-waste model, to a more system-wide approach that seeks to be circular, sustainable and economically responsible.

These four goals are aimed at taking a smarter approach to making, using, recycling and managing products, buildings, infrastructure and materials.

Goal 1 – Design to last, repair and recycle

Generate less waste in businesses through innovation and design; use recycled materials in products and consider impacts across product life cycles; and support business to explore new circular economy business models.

Targets and outcomes include:

> 15 per cent reduction in total waste generation per capita between 2020 and 2030.

> Divert 80% of waste from landfill by 2030, with an interim target of 72% by 2025.

> Cut the volume of organic material going to landfill by 50% between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20% reduction by 2025.

Goal 2 – Use products to create more value

Help people make smart purchasing decisions and extend the life of products and support the reuse economy; repair goods where possible.

Targets and outcomes include:

> 15% reduction in total waste generation per capita between 2020 and 2030.

> Support Victorian communities and council to reduce waste.

> Prevent plastic pollution.

> Support the reuse economy.

Goal 3 – Recycle more resources

Reform kerbside collections to generate more value from waste; improve the separation of recyclable materials; develop markets for recovered materials; plan for and boost investment in recycling infrastructure; embed the waste hierarchy in the management of materials; support the development of appropriate waste to energy facilities.

Targets and outcomes include:

> Divert 80% of waste from landfill by 2030, with and interim target of 72% by 2025.

> Halve the volume of organic material going to landfill by 50% between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20% reduction by 2030.

> 100% of households have access to a separate food and organics recovery service or local composting by 2030.

Goal 4 – Reduce harm from waste and pollution

Protect communities and the environment from high-risk and hazardous wastes.

Targets and outcomes include:

> Support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management.

> The Vic Gov will consider the potential introduction of new levies for waste being stockpiled for long periods, recover avoided waste levies and disposal fee for illegally stockpiled wastes, ensure adequate disposal point of asbestos across the state.

> The Victorian Government spends an estimated $58 million each year in clean-up costs at abandoned waste sites and $105 million each year to respond to stockpile fires. Clean-up costs and lost landfill levy revenue from illegal dumping equates to $30 million a year.

Monitoring and measuring progress

Of course, accurate data and transparency will be key to monitoring the reforms and their intended outcomes. More specifically the Victorian policy outlines it ‘key commitment’ to expanding Victorian’s waste data systems by:

> Establish a framework for monitoring progress towards the circular economy, including the identification of indicators and metrics

> Introduce a new waste and recycling data system to enable better waste management and circular economy monitoring

> Continuing to provide public waste and recycling market intelligence reporting.

The reforms in the Recycling Victoria policy herald an important and necessary opportunity for government, industry and the community to work together to improve kerbside recycling, invest in priority infrastructure and better manage high-risk and hazardous waste.

Recycling Victoria also outlines additional initiatives that can support waste avoidance and behaviour change, further develop waste to energy options and meet community and local council expectations for reliable services.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients across diverse industries and sectors to adopt specific elements and aspects of the Recycling Victoria policy.

If you have any questions about the  policy and how your organisation can benefit, implement or comply with specific goals, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961.

Governments Move on Waste Exports

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) held its 48th general meeting in Sydney on 13 MARCH 2020. The discussion focussed on several key issues of national significance including a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

The Communiqué released from the COAG meeting noted that:

“Leaders agreed to introduce a ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, fulfilling the commitment they made in August 2019. The ban will be phased in, commencing from 1 July 2020. Leaders also agreed a national response strategy to drive implementation of the ban and help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. In line with the response strategy, governments will expand on work with industry to invest in growing the Australian recycling industry and build markets for recycled products.”

Improving our waste and recycling performance is now being addressed on a national basis and with a higher degree of cooperation and coordination than previously experienced.

In particular, the Federal Government is taking a strong leadership role with commitments to review the used packaging NEPM while also investigating regulatory options and the possibility of co-regulatory or mandatory product stewardship schemes for tyres, solar panels and batteries.

Also positive, is a stronger position  by all Governments to support procurement measures that can underpin recycling and recycled content  in construction, manufacturing and infrastructure projects.

The COAG outcome is certainly trending in the right direction and represents noteworthy cooperation across Governments. It also signals a new level of accountability and transparency in policy setting, program delivery and measurable outcomes.

Effective execution and implementation of the COAG response strategy will be essential, as will timely deliver of programs and investment.

A copy of the response strategy can be downloaded here:

Phasing out exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres: Response strategy to implement the August 2019 agreement of the Council of Australian Governments

Do you have queries about the COAG response strategy?

If you have any questions about the COAG outcomes, please contact the Nick Harford at Equilibrium on 0419 993 234

 

The Future of Waste and Recycling in NSW

Waste and recycling are firmly on the agenda at all levels of government. Various industries and sectors are also confronting the challenges and opportunities head-on, including an increasingly informed and aware public.

In response, the NSW Government has commenced consultation on the development of a 20 year waste strategy as well as some very focused planning in response to plastics pollution. The NSW approach stands out with a view to addressing core challenges while also being pragmatic and mindful of community expectations.

The consultation process is comprehensive, timely and underpinned by expert advice, analysis and future-oriented thinking and planning. In many respects it demonstrates some considered thinking about where and how waste and recycling fits into the circular economy ambitions. The figures and statistics outlined by the NSW Government are compelling:

Public consultation on the issues paper – Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future of Waste and Resources – is now open and submissions from all interested stakeholders are encouraged. For more information about making a submission and sharing your views look here.

The issues paper outlines four key directions which seeks to test a number of options that represent specific stages in the circular economy. This approach and thinking reflects some of the more advanced work being conducted at a State Government level.

The four directions are:

1: Generate less waste by avoiding and ‘designing out’ waste, to keep materials circulating in the economy.

2: Improve collection and sorting to maximise circular economy outcomes and lower costs.

3: Plan for future infrastructure by ensuring the right infrastructure is located in the right place and at the right time.

4: Create end markets by fostering demand for recycled products in NSW (particularly glass, paper, organics, plastics and metals) so that recovered materials re-enter our economy and drive business and employment opportunities.

A diverse range of options sit under each of the directions and reflect a sound and holistic view of what the solutions and actions might entail. The ‘Future of Waste and is asking the right questions and posing solutions for consideration. It also has the potential to achieve next level change at scale if and when implementation is adequately resourced.

For more information about the 20 year waste strategy and providing feedback look here.

Redirecting the Future of Plastics in NSW

The NSW Government is also acting on plastics. Their discussion paper,  Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastics in NSw, provides the basis for reform and solutions to help advance the management of plastics in NSW.  The discussion paper sets targets to:

> reduce the amount of plastic generated;
> increase recycling rates;
> reduce plastic pollution; and
> make NSW a global leader in plastic research and solution development.

The NSW Government is consulting with the community and stakeholders before finalising the NSW Plastics Plan. Input from the public is invited with a particular interest in the proposed targets and  priority directions, with a view to this feedback informing the development of the NSW Plastics Plan.

As we know, plastics saturate our existence like few other materials. They have become a recurring topic of discussion at many levels, and while we can acknowledge their unique characteristics and benefits, the public has developed a distinct distaste for plastics and their application across diverse product and packaging categories.

In many ways, the NSW Government is considering how we can produce and consume plastics within a context of environmental and social sensitivity, while also remembering practical and functional value of plastics. NSW acknowledges public anxiety, ecological impacts and industry concerns and highlight why action is required on plastics pollution.

This discussion paper sets out the following four key outcomes for each stage of the life-cycle of plastic, each supported by a proposed target and priority directions.

Outcome 1: Reduce plastic waste generation
Proposed target: Phase out key single-use plastics 

Outcome 2: Make the most of our plastic resources
Proposed target: Triple the proportion of plastic recycled in NSW across all sectors and streams by 2030 

Outcome 3: Reduce plastic waste leakage
Proposed target: Reduce plastic litter items by 25% by 2025 

Outcome 4: Improve our understanding of the future of plastics
Proposed target: Make NSW a leader in national and international research on plastics 

The deadline for feedback on the discussion paper until 5.00pm Friday 8 May 2020. For more information about NSW Plastics Plan and providing feedback look here.

Do you need help with your submission?

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients in the preparation of submissions to this important strategy consultation process.

If you have any questions about the 20 Year Waste Strategy or the Plastics Plan and how your organisation can benefit from making a submission, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961.

Stewardship 2.0 Requires Circular Action

Australia must move beyond old school waste management models and embrace stewardship in support of circular solutions, writes Equilibrium’s John Gertsakis.

Product stewardship and waste reduction have reached a new level in Australia. Recent announcements by the Federal Government place these issues firmly on the national agenda.

Prime Minister Morrison has not only appointed an Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management – the Honorable Trevor Evans MP – he has also earmarked $20 million for a product stewardship investment fund. The government has also pledged to fund a circular economy hub. These actions and commitments hold great potential if carefully advanced and executed.

As Australia’s focus on waste and recycling issues continues, it becomes apparent that some sectors and industries are tackling the issue with urgency and innovation while others continue to drag their feet. Communities and many local councils are also pushing forward with their desire to cut waste and think more responsibly about consumption. States and territories are in the mix with container deposit schemes, plastic bag bans, levies, ewaste landfill bans and policy papers on what the circular economy means for their communities and business. Of course, progress varies dramatically between these sectors.

So what might this mean for facility management? After all, stewardship has been part of the green building, furniture, flooring and fabrics space for years and in some cases noteworthy products and services have been delivered. The time has come to build on achievements to date and drive new programs and initiatives that are more circular and sustainable. In short, what is needed is a genuine move from the ‘take-make-waste’ mode of production and consumption to real-world applications of stewardship that support circular solutions. We must move beyond ‘old school’ collection and recycling solutions and focus on upstream priorities that are preventative in nature.

Essential circular economy action

How does this translate in simple terms? It requires a much stronger and measurable focus on designing out toxics and waste from the beginning rather than adopting and perpetuating ameliorative and incremental approaches.

Circular thinking also demands that FM decisions aim to keep products and materials going longer. Premature obsolescence of products is a menace that undermines circularity at every turn. We need to move beyond assuming that recycling in isolation is the only strategy or solution. Reuse, refurbishment and repair are key principles that underpin a circular economy, as are alternative business models such as the sharing economy, product leasing and dematerialisation.

Let’s face it: waste resulting from products, their manufacture, use and disposal is fundamentally a design decision. Time to flip the role of design on its head and ensure that it unlocks positive environmental performance rather than being at the core of the problem.

A circular economy approach to product stewardship and FM provides an unmatched opportunity to make technical, management and commercial decisions that are truly regenerative, restorative and low carbon. Just doing ‘less harm’ and minimising impacts has not delivered a sustainable mode of production and consumption. This is unequivocally highlighted by the multitude of local, national and global environmental challenges we’re confronting today.

A product stewardship approach that embodies circular economy principles can start the transition to a much higher level of FM performance, especially in relation products and materials associated with the operational management of properties, sites, buildings and spaces. Anything less is a business as usual approach that is unlikely to deliver the required levels of waste avoidance and resource recovery needed to ensure a sustainable future.

All the glossy reporting and clever PR in the world isn’t enough to hide the fact that we need to see some serious transformation that is circular, sustainable and socially responsible. Easier said than done, of course.

National policies and programs will be needed to enable and support change across industries, sectors and communities. This will require targeted investment, market development, environmentally-oriented procurement and improved waste and resource recovery infrastructure.

Although it’s a displeasing word to many in government and industry, it will also require intelligent regulatory instruments to achieve change. Where programs and schemes work successfully on a voluntary basis, these should continue and be supported, rewarded and promoted.

Australia, however, needs to develop a more sophisticated view of policy and regulation than it has to date if we are to see superior levels of environmental performance in key areas. Poorly formulated regulation is unacceptable, but informed, robust regulation can stimulate innovation and be a catalyst for designing exemplary circular economy outcomes. The relevance of responsible prosperity is paramount in this regard.

The relevance of product stewardship

There are many models of product stewardship and extended producer responsibility (EPR) in Australia and abroad. However, its essence remains intact i.e. manufacturers, retailers and brands taking greater environmental responsibility for their products across the lifecycle, including the post-consumer stage. It also requires consumers and other relevant stakeholders to play their part to ensure responsible management and disposal of products.

Assigning producers responsibility both financially or physically for the treatment of post-consumer products can provide incentives to prevent waste at the source and support the achievement of sustainable materials management goals.

Australia is fortunate enough to have legislation dedicated to product stewardship and there is great scope to better use the Product Stewardship Act 2011. It can drive the creation of new schemes and programs in product categories such as mattresses, batteries, solar panels and a various other electrical and electronic products, including Internet of Things devices.

Most importantly, the act recognises the specific needs of different industries and allows for voluntary, co-regulatory or mandatory product stewardship arrangements. This level of elasticity in regulation is noteworthy and provides affected stakeholders with a menu of possibilities when it comes to the design of producer and retailer-funded stewardship initiatives.

Consumption and solutions beyond recycling

Action on product stewardship in Australia has slowed considerably in recent years, especially industry-wide schemes. It is timely, therefore, that the Prime Minister has taken a direct personal interest in recycling and product stewardship matters.

There is no doubt that much more can be done by the Commonwealth to invest in, support and enable product stewardship schemes and this should include the option of regulated take-back schemes, especially for handheld batteries and solar panels, both of which have relevance to facility management.

We all have a role to play in the transition to a circular economy. The Australian Government together with states and territories can adopt a more proactive role and develop robust forward strategies and action plans. They can facilitate improved product stewardship outcomes in a way that reflects circular economy principles and intervenes with proportionate regulation where necessary to plug market failures.

The transition to a circular economy demands collaboration across the supply chain at unprecedented levels and a much more rigorous view of the policies and regulations that can deliver significant change.

Product stewardship has a clear role to play, but only if it moves beyond recycling post-consumer waste and reaches back up the product life-cycle as a way of addressing the root cause – unsustainable consumption. This is what Stewardship 2.0 must address in order to achieve next level change and benefit.

The complete article was first published online by FM Magazine in December 2019, and can be viewed here.

 

Stewardship for Solar Panels Moves Forward

Work led by Sustainability Victoria has taken a positive step forward in responsible management for end-of-life solar panels, inverters and batteries.

A new report covering a stewardship options assessment for photovoltaic (PV) systems has recently been released. It discusses many of the key issues as we move towards a decision on how to best manage the collection, reuse and/or recycling of obsolete, redundant and unwanted solar panels and associated equipment, including batteries.

The options assessment was prepared by Equilibrium and Ernst & Young on behalf of the national working group involving all jurisdictions. The report can be  downloaded here.

In summary, the assessment report found that:

> Key stakeholders (including PV manufacturers, importers and industry associations) supported a nationally coordinated approach for managing PV system waste

> Solar panel waste is the fastest growing e-waste stream in Australia, with only limited recycling opportunities, and would benefit the most from a product stewardship approach

> Either a voluntary or co-regulatory approach for solar panels may be feasible and are likely to achieve the environmental, health and safety objectives of the Product Stewardship Act 2011, improve management of solar panels and increase the opportunity to reuse valuable materials

> The recommended next step is to analyse the potential impacts of voluntary and co-regulatory options.

Given the increasing volume of solar panels entering the market, the time is right to develop a clear forward strategy that can ensure responsible management for this problematic waste stream. Not unlike other forms of ewaste in Australia, the need to promptly build capacity and capabilities is a priority issue, as acknowledged by the Product List under the Product Stewardship Act.

More information about the national approach being pursued can be found here:  https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/About-us/Research/Solar-energy-system-lifecycles

Timeline

The timeline outlined by Sustainability Victoria provides a useful chronology of activity to date, as well as immediate next steps.

> 2014: Victorian Government commits to ban e-waste from landfill

> 2015: Solar panels are identified as the fastest growing e-waste stream without dedicated recycling infrastructure in the Victorian e-waste market flow and processing capacity analysis

> 2016: PV systems are added to the federal government’s Product Stewardship Act 2011 priority product list

> 2016: The Victorian Government receives endorsement through the Meeting of Environment Ministers to form a national working group to work with the PV industry to develop a national management approach for PV systems

> 2017: The national working group completes a national PV systems market flow and processing capacity analysis for PV system equipment, such as inverters and batteries

> 2018: PV systems stewardship options assessment completed by consultants Equilibrium and Ernst & Young on behalf of the national working group

> 2018: Meeting of all state and territory Environment Ministers endorses the national battery stewardship approach to include PV system batteries

> 2019: Recommendation made by the national working group to remove PV inverter equipment and batteries from the national approach to focus solely on PV panels

> Future: National working group to undertake a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) assessing industry-led and co-regulatory options for solar panels, and the flow-on regulatory and economic impacts

> Future: National working group to make recommendations to state, territory and federal governments on a preferred management approach.

The momentum is now building and a decision on the type of stewardship scheme seems likely given the preparatory work, stakeholder engagement and feasibility assessment completed to date.

Whether it is an industry-led program or a co-regulatory scheme, the planning and design process is well underway and bodes well for a national solution that can maximise resource recovery opportunities for this category of ewaste.

More information

Michael Dudley
Strategy Lead – Market Development | Resource Recovery
Sustainability Victoria
michael.dudley@sustainability.vic.gov.au

Nick Harford
Managing Director
Equilibrium
nick@equil.com.au

John Gertsakis
Director, Communications
Equilibrium
john@equil.com.au

Making Child Car Seats Safer with SeatCare

A new product stewardship initiative will provide parents and families with a convenient solution to dispose of their old, unwanted and potentially unsafe child car safety seats. A diverse group of manufacturers, retailers and child safety and automotive organisations is working collaboratively to develop a national child car safety seat recovery program.

The newly formed SeatCare program is expected to commence in 2020 in order to provide families, carers and others with an environmentally sustainable way to dispose of their old child car restraints.

SeatCare is a national first, and has been formed to include the key players across the life-cycle of child car safety seats, including manufacturers, automobile associations, Kidsafe, retailers and product stewardship specialists.

Equilibrium, sustainability and environmental management consultants, is co-designing and building the SeatCare program as an industry-led product stewardship scheme to deal with unwanted child car safety seats.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has shown great interest in the program and the opportunities it can provide to increase children’s safety and reduce waste. Assistant Minister Trevor Evans has also been part of the discussions and recently met with industry stakeholders to hear directly about the program and industry aspirations.

View Minister Ley’s media release here.

The Minister intends to add child car seats to the Priority List under the Product Stewardship Act.

At present, there is no program to support the take-back of old child car safety seats in Australia. Simultaneously, there is a growing public expectation that producers and retailers are well placed to demonstrate their corporate social and environmental responsibility in a very practical manner. As a result SeatCare is a timely solution that will address both safety and environmental objectives in a practical way.

Based on the 10-year recommended maximum life span of child car safety seats, national birth-rates, estimated changeover rate of units per child and per family, and other factors, trials have found that up to 1 million child car safety seats can potentially be captured and removed from the market per year through a well-designed, national take-back scheme such as SeatCare.

Families spend countless hours travelling in the car. Whether it be on family holidays, driving to shops or trips to the doctor, parents can find themselves buckling their children into their car seats multiple times a day. Combined with standard wear and tear and exposure to the sun and heat, a child may outgrow two to four safety seats before they are old enough to sit in a car without one.

Equilibrium ran a trial in 2017 throughout Queensland, NSW and Victoria which successfully collected 1,921 seats for recovery and recycling – 10,342 kilograms of materials including plastic and steel were diverted from landfill.

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. A product with such a significant percentage of recyclable material should be considered a valuable resource that is wasted when sent to landfill.

With a targeted launch date of mid-2020, SeatCare will provide parents 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.

When launched, the SeatCare program will accept the following types of child car safety seats:

> Rear facing carriers
> Forward facing seats
> Booster seats
> Car seat and carrier frames
> Car seat and carrier strapping

Items that attach directly to the seat or carrier supported by the manufacturer.

Once established, it is intended to start progressively rolling out collection sites in mid-2020, with an initial target of around 25 locations.   As the program expands, this number will grow and potentially could build to around 60 collection sites in both metropolitan and regional areas, and involve a number of accredited dismantling organisations and plastic and metal recyclers.

SeatCare represents a unique and timely product stewardship program that meets community need while also improving child safety and reducing waste to landfill.

Quotes attributable to Damien Wigley – General Manager, Equilibrium:

“The SeatCare program will provide a unique community service that can improve road safety while also reducing waste to landfill through an industry-led stewardship program that is family friendly.”

“SeatCare is an excellent example of how manufacturers, auto associations, safety advocates and environmental specialists can create positive waste reduction programs that meet consumer expectations.”

“SeatCare demonstrates how voluntary approaches to product stewardship can be achieved in a timely and outcome-oriented way. Multi-stakeholder involvement from the outset is the key to such programs, as is equitable co-funding, transparency and environmental sound processes.”

Media comment:

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

Equilibrium media release
Environment Minister Ley media release

New Federal Inquiry: Rethinking Waste in Australia

Waste management and recycling continues to be a focus at the highest level of Government in Australia with an industry inquiry now underway. The focus is a positive one looking at solutions, economic opportunities, jobs and regional development. Responsible prosperity seems to be an implicit theme.

The need to examine improved performance and optimal resource recovery within a circular economy context is also likely to feature. Importantly, this is an industry inquiry, not an environmental one. It is a broad-based national investigation and one which can shine a light on how the industry can operate better, more efficiently and be more innovative.

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources launched an inquiry into Australia’s Waste Management and Recycling Industries. On Wednesday 23 October 2019 the Committee adopted an inquiry referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, asking the Committee to inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries.

Information about the inquiry can be found here.

The Chair of the Committee, Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, said ‘the inquiry will examine different processes within Australia, and between Australia and best practice in the world. The Committee will investigate innovative ways to reduce the millions of tonnes of waste discarded in landfill and waterways in Australia each year.’

‘Improving waste management and recycling in Australia not only provides for a cleaner and more sustainable environment, but it also presents a range of economic opportunities. New jobs and industries will be created – particularly in our regions – along with new products and services’, Mr Joyce said.

The Committee will consider opportunities to better manage industrial, commercial and domestic waste, as well as any current impediments to innovation in these sectors. Strategies to reduce waste in waterways and oceans will also be examined.

In some ways the Committee may revisit elements of the Productivity Commission’s 2006 inquiry which examined the way Australia manages its waste and products over their life-cycle.

In 2006 the Productivity Commission found that a lack of evidence-based policy development from States and the self-interest of the industry itself was problematic for efficiently achieving good industry and environmental outcomes. The PC’s overarching theme remains valid – that the issues and barriers are not always best managed by environmental policy and that the underlying opportunities are really business / commercial / industrial ones.

What has changed over the last 13 years?

Increasingly the question of how to best manage waste in Australia is transcending conventional environmental policy and programs with a distinct move towards great business and commercial innovation.

Given that this inquiry has been referred by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology highlights the need to bring a stronger commercial and applied industry lens to how we identify opportunities and successfully transform them into sustainable innovations, products and services.

Terms of Reference

The Committee will inquire into and report on innovative solutions in Australia’s waste management and recycling industries, including:

> Industrial, commercial and domestic waste;

> Waste in waterways and oceans;

> Landfill reduction; and

> Other related matters.

The Committee is to focus on opportunities presented by waste materials, including energy production, innovative recycling approaches and export opportunities, and to also consider current impediments to innovation.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients in the preparation of submissions to this important inquiry. It provides an unmatched opportunity to place greater emphasis on solutions and environmentally oriented innovations in waste management that are truly forward thinking.

If you have any questions about the inquiry and how your organisation can benefit from making a submission, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

Nick Harford on 0419 993 234 or nick@equil.com.au
Damien Wigley on 0404 899 961 or damien@equil.com.au
John Gertsakis on 0409 422 089 or john@equil.com.au

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is Friday 31 January 2020

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

 

 

 

 

 

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