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Category Archives: Product Stewardship

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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