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Category Archives: Product Stewardship

Battery stewardship in Australia – on trickle charge or ready to power up?

Keeping batteries out of the waste stream has multiple benefits.

Many of the materials found in handheld batteries can be recycled and reused, recovering hazardous substances that would otherwise be released into the environment causing pollution and contamination.

Other countries recognise this and have taken regulatory action to compel producers to play a stronger role in collection and recycling schemes.

The European Union has had a Batteries Directive in place since 2006 and several US states require producers and retailers to offer or fund battery recycling services, including Vermont (2014), California (2006) and Minnesota (1994).

Government and segments of the battery industry in Australia have been working towards a national scheme for handheld batteries under 5kg since 2013, however a recycling program has yet to be realised.

There are battery recycling services such as MobileMuster and the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, however batteries are not the focus and battery recycling schemes are generally piecemeal. The closest we come to a convenient and free battery recycling service for residents is that offered by ALDI and Battery World stores.

The result is in Australia, we have a collection rate of used batteries of about 3% compared to 40% to 70% in Europe.

Progress or procrastination?

Handheld batteries up to 5kg (primary and rechargeable) have been on Australia’s regulatory agenda since 2013. In 2015, parts of the battery industry effectively pushed back on a voluntary scheme and succeeded in reducing the scope to rechargeable handheld batteries only.

Since then the Battery Implementation Working Group (BIWG) – funded by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (the lead jurisdiction) and supported by various industry members including the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative – has conducted numerous studies, pilot projects and stakeholder engagement exercises to determine how a voluntary handheld rechargeable battery program could work.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

There is potentially light at the end of the tunnel, as suggested by the following chronology of activities since late 2015. It demonstrates some very focused activity and decision-making by the BIWG.

>  2015 – Environment Ministers revised the scope of batteries to be covered from all handheld batteries less than 5kg to just rechargeable handheld batteries less than 5 kg as a result of initial consultation with the battery industry.

>  2016 – a two-month pilot was conducted in Toowoomba to investigate the feasibility of collecting handheld rechargeable batteries for recycling through a diverse range of collection channels.

>  2016 – a nine-month pilot was conducted in Brisbane to investigate the feasibility of collecting used power-tool batteries for recycling and to better understand market share and consumer behaviour.

>  Early 2017 – a Financial Options Study was completed to estimate the costs of a voluntary program and evaluate different funding options in terms of sharing and recovering costs.

>  July 2017 – BIWG recommended to Environment Minsters a shared approach between manufactures/importers/brands/retailers and governments that was underpinned by ‘light’ regulation to prevent free-riding and ensure industry-wide participation while minimising cost to government.

>  July 2017 Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) endorsed the work of the BIWG and agreed to consider approaches that involve regulatory options “to underpin a voluntary scheme … as States see fit.”

This final point is a key decision by the MEM and provides BIWG the opportunity to explore national and state-based regulatory options to prevent free-riding without creating unnecessary red-tape for government or industry.

Pivotal Meeting of Environment Ministers

Clearly there has been a greater focus on increased producer and retailer engagement, scheme design and cost-sharing. The next step in the process is determining what regulatory instrument will ensure maximum industry participation and minimal cost to government and the community.

Indeed, the prospect of realising a national scheme is looking positive. But we are at a pivotal point in the process. Anything less than a firm decision by governments to regulate may result in industry walking away – leaving Australians with little option but to dispose of old batteries inappropriately, putting our environment and communities at risk.

There is a need not only to maintain batteries on the agenda, but to design a timely solution that demonstrates clear stewardship commitment by battery brands in particular. The rapid growth in battery use (small and large), the proliferation of consumer electronics and the dramatic growth of Internet of Things devices, all underscore the need for a national battery collection and recycling scheme.

At a time when numerous overseas countries have been running battery stewardship programs for more than a decade, it places Australia in the uncomfortably unique position of being exceptionally good at inaction and inferior policy development.

The upcoming Meeting of Environment Ministers should change that. It is time to enthusiastically decide to put in place a regulatory option that will enable the battery industry to implement a national battery recycling scheme without fear of being disadvantaged. Most importantly it should support creation of an environmentally sound battery recycling scheme that is free, accessible and widely promoted.

For more information visit the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative website.

For more information about Equilibrium’s stewardship and sustainability solutions contact John Gertsakis at:  john@equil.com.au  or mobile: 0409 422 089.

This story originally appeared on BEN Onliine/Inside Waste,
2 February 2018.

 

 

 

 

Electronics in a Circular Economy

Circular thinking and the concept of closing the loop is gaining considerable momentum in some sectors and industries

While not entirely new, there is growing interest, excitement and acknowledgement that a circular economy is key to achieving a sustainable future.

Australia’s first major conference on the circular economy – Powering the Change – is about to take place in South Australia and it promises to be an agenda-setting event. On November 15-17 in Adelaide, business, government and academia come together to collaborate and discuss how the circular economy can be, and is being, implemented.

Powering the Change … will help raise awareness, build knowledge and stimulate further action in our region. Participants wıll leave the conference armed with knowledge, networks and enthusiasm to make the case for and drive circular economy approaches and projects ın their organisation or jurisdiction.

The recognition of closed loop models and approaches by key organisations such as the European Commission, WRAP and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, has elevated the importance of why society must extract maximum value from the materials and products we consume day in day out. The need to move well beyond the linear economy should be obvious, especially if we are to avoid devouring the future.

There is a strong and optimistic sense of what can be achieved if enthusiastic collaboration can conceive and drive the myriad of solutions that are required. Positive interventions are essential across sectors, industries and communities. There is no single player that can deliver a circular economy, but there are teams of champions who can demonstrate and shape truly circular outcomes.

The challenge for all of us is to go beyond the rhetoric of closed loops and execute real-world outcomes. Dressing-up yesterday’s recycling activities certainly isn’t circular (or sustainable), especially if it’s characterised by down-cycling with low-value outcomes. Effective implementation that embodies circular economy principles will be the ultimate measure of success.

Design and designers must also feature more widely in the circular economy toolbox. Many product-related impacts are determined at the design stage, and as a consequence, impacts can be replaced with product features that are restorative and regenerative; not just ameliorative and incremental.

The European Commission talks about the circular economy and its importance as a strategic imperative, not just a one-dimensional approach to waste management:

“To ensure sustainable growth for the EU we have to use our resources in a smarter, more sustainable way. It is clear that the linear model of economic growth we relied on in the past is no longer suited for the needs of today’s modern societies in a globalised world. We cannot build our future on a ‘take-make-dispose’ model. Many natural resources are finite, we must find an environmentally and economically sustainable way of using them. It is also in the economic interest of businesses to make the best possible use of their resources.”

The  Commission’s overview is not peculiar to Europe or the northern hemisphere. Many if not all of the issues and potential benefits equally apply to Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific.

So how do we accelerate circular solutions for electronics and the rapid onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

A conference session to explore solutions for all things electronic

With our seemingly endless appetite for the latest electronic devices and their cocktail of batteries, precious metals and low value materials, identifying and exploring workable circular solutions is an urgent challenge for the electronics industry.

More specifically:

> What if we were to move beyond the mere collection and recycling of unwanted goods and consumables – and manage the entire product life cycle instead?

> What options are there for businesses that want to disrupt this dynamic?

> How can corporates change their business model? Or do regulators need to change the rules?

A dedicated session at the Adelaide conference will focus on electronic products, as well as associated consumables such as batteries. The panel of professionals from industry, government and academia will share some visions of what circular electronics could look like in Australia, along with suggestions for how we could get there.

The session will be moderated by Rose Read, CEO of DropZone by MRI, and John Gertsakis, Director of Communications at Equilibrium, who jointly bring many years of experience in the policy and practice of product stewardship. Most importantly the panel will comprise several well-informed individuals to help stimulate discussion and solicit input from conference delegates:

> Peter Brisbane, Director, Stewardship and Waste at the Department of the Environment and Energy will share a national policy perspective – reflecting on successes and challenges of Australia’s product stewardship initiatives in electronics including batteries.

> Carmel Dollisson, CEO of Australia & New Zealand Recycling Platform (TechCollect), will share how her founding companies – including Canon, DELL, HP, Fuji-Xerox and IBM – are working with councils and recyclers to ensure at least 90% of the commodities recovered from the e-waste collected across Australia are used in the manufacture of new products.

> Monique Retamal, Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, will share her research into increasing product longevity, with a focus on ‘slowing’ life cycles by repairing, sharing and reusing, as opposed to the current focus on recycling, or ‘closing’ material loops.

> Glen Winkler, State General Manager, South Australia & Northern Territory in Global Enterprise and Services, Telstra Corporation. Glen will share his insights on Telstra’s Electronics Reuse and Recycling Strategy – ‘Unlocking Hidden Value’, as well as how ICT can play a wider role in delivering environmental outcomes.

Complex and challenging to say the least, but vital if we are to positively change our patterns of production and consumption to maximise resource value.

Current practices typically lean towards business as usual, however it’s time to consider how fundamental business redesign, new consumption patterns, and dynamic regulation might enable truly circular action.

Visit the conference website for more information and how to register.

 

Equilibrium Joins C2P as a Knowledge Partner

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

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

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

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

Reporting on policy and regulatory initiatives in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information

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

 

Proposed E-waste Policy Package for Victoria

Public Consultation Commences

The Victorian Government has released a comprehensive consultation package on its proposed approach to managing e-waste in Victoria, including its commitment to ban e-waste from landfills.

The proposed approach will legally ban e-waste from landfill and specify how e-waste must be managed in Victoria from July 2018. The Victorian Government is supporting those who manage e-waste to adapt to these new regulatory requirements with a state-wide education campaign and an infrastructure support program.

The Victoria Government is seeking views and feedback from the community and industry on the package and will accept submissions until 25 January 2018.  The consultation process is being managed by the Waste and Resource Recovery team at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The consultation package contains several draft documents covering regulatory components as well as non-regulatory measures such as infrastructure support and community education awareness activities. Feedback will be used to refine the arrangements for the ban on e-waste from landfill.

The consultation package, including all draft tools, policies and policy impact assessments can be accessed at: www.engage.vic.gov.au/waste/e-waste

Public comment and feedback from all interested parties is possible through the website.

Some key aspects of the package:

1. The package of proposed measures has been developed to reduce e-waste going to landfill, increase resource recovery and support jobs and investment in the recycling sector.

2. For the purposes of the ban, e-waste is defined as any device with a power cord or battery that is no longer wanted or useful. This definition will be further tested during the development of the education and awareness campaign.

3. It is expected that all regulatory requirements for stakeholders will take effect from July 2018. A period of 12 months post policy will allow for the completion of infrastructure upgrades to meet the required standards.

4. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will enforce the new requirements in line with their Compliance and Enforcement Policy, and take a risk-based approach. While small volumes of e-waste may filter through to landfill, the EPA will expect measures are in place to manage e-waste and prevent large quantities from entering a landfill.

5. The Victorian approach is a landfill ban or prohibition as opposed to a Product Stewardship program. It is broader than the Commonwealth’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) in that it includes all e-waste, all items with a power cord or a battery. However, the NTCRS will continue to play a core role in Victoria by ensuring recovery of a large proportion of televisions and computers in the most environmentally-sound manner. The Victorian Government has noted it will continue to advocate for expansion of the scope of the NTCRS to cover more types of e-waste.

Equilibrium is currently undertaking a detailed analysis of the package. If you have any queries or would like to discuss the package, please contact Equilibrium directly.

More information about the consultation package can be accessed at the DELWP website.

More information

John Gertsakis
Director, Communications
Equilibrium
Email: john@equil.com.au
Mobile: +61 409 422 089

 

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

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

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

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

Kiama Community Recycling Centre: 446 Riverside Dr, Minnamurra.

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

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

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

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

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

Darebin Resource Recovery Centre, 30 Kurnai Avenue, Reservoir Victoria

Review of the Product Stewardship Act

Passage of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 marks a step change in resource recovery and recycling in Australia. It has provided the platform and impetus for birth of a range of programs and schemes, some aligned to the Act and some not, that aim to reduce the environmental impacts of a wide range of products.

Equilibrium welcomes the news that the Department of the Environment and Energy will be undertaking a periodic review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011.

This is the first review of the Act since it commenced in 2011. The review presents an excellent opportunity for industry to have their say in how they Act operates and how it might be improved to be more responsive to emerging waste challenges.

To date the Product Stewardship Act has created an effective co-regulatory product stewardship scheme for televisions and computers (NCTRS), as well as giving voluntary accreditation to mobile phone, mercury-containing lamps, batteries, waste paint and tyre product stewardship schemes.

The periodic review will consider the effectiveness of the accreditation of voluntary product schemes and the Minister’s annual product list in supporting product stewardship outcomes. It will also review international and domestic experience in product stewardship to gain practical knowledge from international experience and help tailor that knowledge to local industries.

The Department of the Environment and Energy will actively seek input from industry, state, territory and local governments and the community to ensure that it continues to deliver the best outcomes for business and the environment.

The review will commence shortly and a final written report will be provided to the Minister for the Environment and Energy in early 2018. Further information on the review can be found here.

Launch of a New Trial to Recycle Old Child Car Safety Seats

Imagine over 200,000 child car safety seats stacked on top of each other. The seats would climb a staggering height of over 100km, equivalent to scaling Mt Everest 12 times. According to industry intelligence in the Australian market, estimates suggest that this number of expired or damaged child car safety seats were disposed of in 2015-2016. Such high rates of safety seat disposal reflect a positive step towards ensuring that expired or damaged seats are removed from the Australian market, however their disposal may come at a price to already over-burdened landfills.

The Market:

Child car safety seats carry some pretty precious cargo. With the welfare of our children in mind, Australia maintains high mandatory standards in the manufacture of child car safety seats. You can have full confidence that child car seats sold in Australia are designed to meet safety requirements, are constructed of high quality material, and are subjected to rigorous product testing before being released onto the market.

Those involved in the design, manufacture and supply of child car safety seats take the safety of their products seriously, and stress that their products are designed to be used for a fixed period of time. For this reason, child car safety seats sold in Australia are stamped with a date of production, and manufacturers recommend that the seat is not used after 10 years from this date. This is to ensure outdated and potentially degraded products are removed from the market and replaced by products that meet updated safety standards.

Age, extreme car temperatures, previous involvement in a crash and the standard wear of regularly used latches, straps and buckles can dramatically affect the ability of car seats to protect children in the event of a serious car accident. Disposing of a child car safety seat once it reaches its fixed life span can give parents peace of mind that their child will be protected in the event of a crash.

The Issue: The Value of Waste

Such high rates of child car safety seat disposal should be viewed as a positive for product safety, but their disposal comes at a price for local Councils and consumers who bear the cost of landfilling waste. There is currently very little access to schemes in Australia for people to responsibly dispose of their safety seats, and minimal disposal options for those that don’t wish to send their damaged or expired car seats to landfill. Consequently, many safety seats make their way to the second-hand market through garage sales, op-shops and kerbside dumping. The potential for re-use of expired and damaged seats through this market poses a significant safety risk. The remaining seats are simply dumped at landfill for want of a better disposal option.

While exact figures of child safety seat units disposed of per annum are difficult to determine, industry intelligence of the Australian market suggest that the disposal of over 200,000 child car seats would equate to in excess of 900 tonnes of waste to landfill. It has been estimated that at least 90% of materials by weight contained in a child car safety seat is of recyclable material. A product with such a significant percentage of recyclable material should be considered a valuable resource that is wasted when sent to landfill. The wasteful disposal of child safety seats is a cost to the government, the community and the environment. There would therefore appear to be an excellent opportunity in increasing resource recovery of materials used in damaged or expired child car safety seats and creating value from their disposal.

The Solution:

Having identified the potential for resource recovery in the disposal of damaged or expired child car safety seats, Equilibrium has been investigating the merits of a product stewardship scheme for the take-back and recycling of end-of-life child car safety seats. This solution to an avoidable waste problem will display social and environment leadership, and will provide a pathway for people to safely and effectively dispose of child safety seats, ensuring their removal from the second-hand market and enabling proper resource recovery and recycling.

Equilibrium’s Child Car Safety Seat Stewardship Trial has garnered considerable support from the Queensland and NSW Governments (Waste Less Recycle More Initiative), Victorian Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group as well as major car seat brands including Dorel and InfaSecure and automotive association representatives from RACV, NRMA, RAA, and RACT. Capitalising on this interest, Equilibrium has brought together a steering committee of interested parties to assist with trial development and implementation. The collaboration of interested organisations such as product manufacturers, local/state governments, road safety advocates and insurance agencies will provide the trial the benefits of strategic oversight and the sharing of existing industry knowledge related to the trial.

The trial is expected to conclude by the second half of this year.