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Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

 

 

 

Future fate of photovoltaic panels

As the uptake of renewable energy continues to grow and expand, so too does the need to consider how we manage end-of-life photovoltaic panels.

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

PV panels and associated equipment (inverters and storage) have been identified as a rapidly growing e-waste stream in future years. Equilibrium has been engaged by Sustainability Victoria to undertake an analysis and assess potential options for a national product stewardship approach.

New research by UNSW examines the economic barriers, the technologies and opportunities in recycling end-of-life PVs. In April, a group of four researchers from UNSW published an assessment of the approaches developed to date, economic barriers to their widespread implementation, and the potential for material recovery and profit from a future PV-upcycling industry.

The study puts Australia at the forefront of understanding the economic drivers and possibilities ahead.

A comprehensive story in the May 2019 issue of PV Magazine by Natalie Filatoff reports on the landmark study conducted by the UNSW team.

For more information about the Sustainability Victoria project contact Michael Dudley.

You can view the article here.

 

 

 

 

 

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Fit for Purpose Tools in Resource Recovery

Equilibrium’s managing director, Nick Harford is presenting this week at the 2018 WasteSA Resource Recovery Conference in Adelaide. It’s an excellent event typically attended by key players who know the industry and what is required to move it forward.

The current climate confronting the waste and resource recovery industry generates considerable  discussion and speculation about preferred solutions, desired outcomes, essential infrastructure and/or policy reforms.

Product stewardship – either voluntary or regulated – is often hooked into the dialogue, as a key tool for more efficient resource use, including the recovery and recycling of products and materials. And in many cases (but not all) this is an accurate assessment.

Nick’s conference presentation will highlight that product stewardship is one tool among many when it comes to waste avoidance and resource recovery. The environment and sustainability toolbox contains many approaches that need to be mixed and matched depending on the specific problem or opportunity being addressed.

Whether we are focussed on material substitution,  eliminating restricted substances, extended product life or design for disassembly and remanufacturing, the need to carefully choose a solution or hybrid of tools, should be informed and with clear justification.

In short, it is about understanding the issue, the desired outcome and the relevance of available approaches or tools. Fit for purpose thinking is essential when it comes to maximising efficiency and effectiveness with a view to delivering measurable benefit.

Contact Nick directly to request a copy of his conference presentation:

Nick Harford
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile:  0419 993 234

NSW Government moves on Circular Policy

The goal of a circular economy is being discussed across sectors, industries and communities. Much of it with substance and strong intent, but some of it superficial and simplistic.

Most importantly, there is a recognition that new patterns of production and consumption are essential. This is especially relevant if we as an economy and community are to maximise resource productivity, minimise impacts and develop a new, more benign relationship with products and the materials they are made from.

The need for effective policy reform is timely, as is the need for economy-wide attention. Rebranding  waste and recycling initiatives as circular economy initiatives certainly fails to recognise the imperative.

As a contribution towards delivering positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for the community that are ‘circular’ the NSW Government is developing relevant policies. Specifically, it has released a draft Circular Economy Policy as well as a Circular Economy Discussion Paper.

The two documents provide a useful overview of the essential principles, including examples of how these can be applied to achieve the desired outcomes. Both the policy and the discussion paper are sensible starting points for informing and engaging interested stakeholders.

Unlike European Union initiatives which identify actions holistically across industries and sectors, the NSW documents are chiefly framed through a waste management lens, which may be more doable over the short-term however at some point will need to address the structural transformation needed to achieve a truly circular economy.

The discussion paper sets an inclusive tone and asks ‘what would a circular economy look like’ and invites ideas on how interested parties could get involved and what support they may require.

Consultation on the draft Circular Economy Policy is open from 22 October to 25 November 2018.

Submissions will inform the process and be used to finalise the policy. This will be followed by an implementation plan that sets out how the NSW Government will ‘work with business and local communities.

You can download the relevant documents and have your say via the following website:

https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/circular

Equilibrium is working with some of its clients and partners to prepare submissions over the coming weeks. We would welcome contact from any company, council or organisation wishing to discuss the process and their response to the discussion paper.

More information

Nick Harford
Managing Director – Equilibrium
Email:  nick@equil.com.au
Mobile: 0419 993 234

Product Stewardship at Equilibrium

Understanding the impacts and issues of a product or material across its life-cycle is often the first step towards creating smart stewardship solutions.

The production of manufactured goods brings diverse benefit and utility across all aspects of life. It serves our everyday habits, routines and lifestyles, often with great efficiency.

These products fuel economic activity, national prosperity and meet functional requirements, however they also consume materials, energy, water and a variety of other resources – some rare, some scarce and some potentially hazardous.

On the upside, the ability to create low impact, low-waste and restorative products and services in a circular economy is however straightforward, desirable and consistent with how responsible companies operate.

Enter Equilibrium advice, strategy and technical services

We specialise in all aspects of stewardship for products, materials and services. Equilibrium is much more than consulting and advice, as it covers the full range of activities necessary to design, develop, administer, implement and evaluate successful product solutions, schemes and programs.

Importantly, Equilibrium provides end-to-end stewardship services, from tailored programs, auditing methods and engagement strategies.

How we help our customers and partners

Whether it is a regulated scheme, a voluntary industry program, or an individual business service to customers, we have the capabilities and software to assist manufacturers, importers, retailers, associations and not-for-profits to develop and execute high performance stewardship outcomes.

Our services also have relevance to federal, state, territory and local governments, especially at the intersection of stakeholder engagement, consumer education and methodologies to address downstream supply chain assurance.

We implement a life-cycle or systems approach to stewardship and associated problem-solving in the resource recovery sector, specialising in materials and operational efficiency by drawing on extensive industry, environment and government experience.

Some of our customers and partners

Equilibrium provides a wide spectrum of stewardship-based services for industry and government connecting the environment, economy, policy and community in a shared responsibility model.

Our personnel have extensive experience in product stewardship – from hands-on industry roles establishing take-back programs to strategic level research and advice. Some of the stewardship projects and programs Equilibrium staff have worked on include:

> Paintback
> Child car safety seat take-back pilot
> National Television and Computer Recycling
> Mattress stewardship scheme development
> Tyre Stewardship Australia
> Australian Packaging Covenant
> FluoroCycle
> Oil container product stewardship scheme
> Australian Tyre Recyclers Association

Equilibrium’s focus is on working collaboratively with stakeholders and equipping them to implement stewardship solutions under their own Corporate Social Responsibility programs and directives.

Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011

The current review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011, including the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, is an important opportunity for manufactures, retailers, councils, social enterprises and industry associations, to help shape the next phase of stewardship activity in Australia.

The Equilibrium team has been deeply involved in many aspects of the Act’s creation, review and ongoing implementation. That means we can help interested organisations unlock the value and benefit of what the Act can offer organisations.

In short, we can assist with the preparation of submissions, run member workshops and advise on the relevance and implications of the Act, including the potential benefits with  securing voluntary accreditation.

We welcome and encourage you to make contact with us and talk about the review process and what it means for your company, enterprise, council or association.

Remember that the deadline for submissions under the review of the Product Stewardship Act is 29 June 2018.
More information

Contact Nicholas, Damien or John for more information about our services and solutions:

Nicholas Harford
Mobile: 0419 993 234 or nick@equil.com.au

Damien Wigley
Mobile: 0404 899 961 or damien@equil.com.au

John Gertsakis
Mobile: 0409 422 089 or john@equil.com.au

 

 

Kerbside recycling market assessment tool

Kerbside recycling market assessment methodology

The importance of recycling to the Australian community, industry and local councils has been further reinforced by recent developments in China.

The act of sorting, separating and recycling our household recyclable materials is something that the public and councils consider an essential service. It is good for the environment, meets community expectations and generates positive economic activity.

A practical tool for local councils and kerbside operators

Equilibrium has been working with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to develop a tool* to assist local councils and kerbside service operators to assess changes to contracts in the current environment.

The methodology underpinning the tool is not intended to be prescriptive, but more so a guide that councils and others can use as it suits their particular circumstances and requirements. The tool includes instructions, examples and indicative responses to make it as easy to use and as stand-alone as possible, and to enable individual organisations to adapt it to their situation.

The MWRRG is now using this approach with Victorian Councils, and it has been widely circulated to all States, major recyclers and industry groups.

About the tool

The methodology assists parties involved with kerbside recycling service arrangements to make informed decisions on on-going arrangements. It is based on accountability, transparency and reasonableness when negotiating and agreeing to kerbside recycling service arrangements.  This approach sets out:

1. Principles of kerbside recycling services.
2. Considerations for assessing kerbside recycling service arrangements.
3. Commodity price indices, factors and calculations to inform financial considerations.
4. Monitoring and verification of agreements

The tool is straightforward to use and organisations can use it to check and test their own particular situation.

To request a copy email info@equil.com.au or call + 61 3 9372 5356

*The tool has been developed by Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd for the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG). The tool remains the property of Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd and the MWRRG. Equilibrium OMG Pty Ltd and the MWRRG cannot accept responsibility for any use or reliance on the content of this method and associated tool by any third party

 

Blockchain and Environmental Applications

Digital disruption applied to environmental objectives holds great potential to build transparency across the supply chain

The need to confirm, verify and certify processes and outcomes is a major element in responsible and measurable environmental management, be it to establish accurate disposal paths, quantify recovered materials or document a robust chain of data and activity.

From forestry and fisheries through to energy, carbon reduction and abatement programs and the recycling and recovery of waste, the need for unassailable digital tools is an essential part of responsible environmental management and business sustainability in the broadest sense.

How often do we hear about the need for effective ‘chain of custody’ for materials or a particular product, or for certified recycling outcomes?

Digital solutions that are free of any single vested interest, and have the architecture to enable transparency and widespread adoption, will allow organisations, and their sustainability practitioners to reach new levels of knowledge transfer, environmental performance, supplier accountability and customer confidence.

Blockchain 101

There are plenty of definitions with a recurring theme but it’s all about decentralization through a platform ‘owned by no one and useable by everyone’.  In very simple terms it’s a ‘shared record book’.

Some succinct explanations further describe its essential characteristics:

“Blockchain is a decentralized digitized database that maintains a list of records of a complete history of transactions or movements of a product.”

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Read more: Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)

Because the “chain” can’t be modified it can immediately provide proof of purchase for any transaction, whether that be procurement of sustainable materials to purchasing renewable energy.

Fundamental to the structure of blockchains is the ability to maintain encrypted copies of any information stored on every server or “node” in the network.

Blockchain systems record all transactions, enabling a transparent trail that can be easily audited, even automatically which can be used to validate transactions preventing double counting and the authenticity of chain of custodies around products and materials.

Relevance to sustainability and environmental objectives

So could the blockchain be part of the transparency revolution that business sustainability demands?

Heather Clancy, the editorial director of GreenBiz talks about the blockchain’s emerging role in sustainability in a manner that is both plausible and compelling. The scenarios she describes are clear candidates highlighting how a ‘shared record book’ can bring noteworthy environmental benefit and customer confidence through the ultimate in transparent platforms.

“Picture, if you will, a tracking system that discreetly verifies the provenance of products as they move across a supply chain — sending proactive alerts about unexpected detours that could signal potential tampering or environmental conditions that might pose safety issues. Or, imagine a database that monitors the clean electricity generated by on-site solar panels, issues renewable energy certificates as certain production thresholds are achieved, then distributes them according to predetermined contracts. Automatically.”

Clancy however is a realist and acknowledging the hype but certainly not dismissing the blockchain and its future applications. While lavish claims and embellishment are the norm for early innovations and over-excited entrepreneurs, there is a logic and clarity around why and how the blockchain can address data and verification gaps not always possible or reliable via conventional methods and systems.

“While the hype level seen during 2016 isn’t likely to last — it sometimes seems every other tech headline is rife with blockchain promises — the next few years will usher a wave of experiments. Where sustainability professionals are likely to see the most action: among utilities or renewable energy developers seeking a more efficient way of pricing and selling clean power; at consumer products companies and retailers seeking a better way of validating supply-chain claims; and among banks and insurance companies interested in verifying the provenance of minerals, commodities or raw materials.”

In support of her insights, Clancy shares some specific examples of companies to watch and how they are utilising the blockchain to address a diverse range of energy, environment and supply chain imperatives from conflict minerals and product life-cycle management all the way through to renewable energy trading:

IBM — sells a private cloud service that could help organizations develop and get blockchain applications up and running quickly. Its technology is behind pilots by retailer Walmart, for food safety, and Everledger, which certifies the origins of diamonds.

LO3 Energy — its TransactiveGrid system helps automate the trading of power across microgrids. The startup just scored a notable strategic partner, German energy management company Siemens. (A similar company is Australia’s PowerLedger.)

Nasdaq — has been investing in blockchain technology for more than three years. Its Linq service could be the foundation for new business models, such as a system for issuing renewable energy credits automatically.

Provenance — a relatively low-key London firm has piloted the use of blockchain to track tuna supply chains in Indonesia and to monitor produce for British grocer Co-op Food. It wants to make it simpler for companies to verify sustainability claims.

Skuchain — the California startup’s software is behind a test by Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo initially focused on trading cotton between Texas and China.

Heather Clancy’s article complete with more detail can be viewed at GreenBiz. It is a reader-friendly excerpt from a more comprehensive report published in partnership with Trucost in 2017. Read more: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/blockchains-emerging-role-sustainability

Indeed we have local examples. Power Ledger based in Perth has launched a successful ICO (Initial Coin Offering). The company uses a blockchain platform that allows neighbours to trade surplus energy from rooftop solar panels and batteries at prices that exceed feed-in-tariffs, as well as sharing solar panels and batteries on multi-dwelling apartment blocks and community facilities. Read more here: http://www.afr.com/news/power-ledger-builds-energy-business-amid-bitcoin-mayhem-20171215-h05c5v#ixzz55AxqIDbH

The World Economic Forum has also been proactively discussing the relevance of the blockchain and its role in helping deal with climate change and resource conservation.

In relation to climate change the WEF speculates on what’s possible, desirable and necessary staying that the blockchain features benefits for both producer and consumer, as well as other players throughout the supply chain:

“Imagine a world in which carbon emissions and credits can be tracked transparently and reliably. Retailers will be able to sell a product and take into account the carbon impact it creates at the same time. Governments will be able to measure, track and trade emissions transparently. And crucially, for the first time consumers will be able to understand the environmental impact of the products they are buying – both positive and negative – at the point of sale, and will be able to mitigate this in an instant, with millions of micro-transactions scaling up to make a huge collective impact.”  Read more: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/carbon-currency-blockchain-poseidon-ecosphere/

New uses and applications emerge weekly which also highlights that the platform has captured the imagination of innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as the major financial institutions who have much to gain and lose should they not understand its potential.

The here and now of the blockchain is mostly being used in cryptocurrency because of its two main advantages i.e. the highly secure nature of the platform, and its transparency. These attributes have been quickly identified by users as the ‘shared record book’ reaches into new markets and solutions, including:

> Plastic Bank: uses blockchain technology to pay for the collection of plastic in poverty-stricken areas reducing the overall waste.

> Poseidon+: carbon credit market that will allow consumers to purchase climate positive products and having the confidence to trust it because of blockchain tracking.

> Catenaut: is blockchain made for a timber supply chain, knowing where the timber comes from and the amount coming in accurately.

Ultimately the blockchain delivers a degree of transparency that in fact spawns new uses, or improved uses compared to conventional, less-secure methods and systems.

A blockchain future will be able to:

> track energy in a decentralized system
> track products from cradle to grave/ tracking products that may be reused/recycled
> track food sources i.e. consumers knowing where it comes from. Seeing food miles and other information
> continually track products across and throughout the supply chain
> accurately audit supply chains as it provides a clear paper trail of products that cannot be tampered

Its success and widespread application will in part depend on compelling, evidence-based case-studies that stimulate thinking across sectors and industries, including energy, water, waste, mining, agriculture and fisheries.

If the blockchain can achieve a step-change improvement in relation to accurate data sharing, verification, monitoring and tracking, then we are likely to see greater uptake over the coming months and years. And if its application can directly and indirectly contribute to achieving a more resource efficient and productive sustainable future then its value-adding capacity is noteworthy.

It could also be the platform that helps to underpin the circular economy and its focus on extending the life of products, components and materials to unprecedented levels.

Transparency combined with closed loops is a powerful partnership in pursuit of regenerative and restorative solutions.

Authored by: John Gertsakis and Tom Pollock from Equilibrium
31 January 2018

 

Maxi Cosi supports the child car safety seat recycling program

Equilibrium are proud to be associated with Maxi Cosi as part of the the Child Car Safety Seat Recycling Program.

National Car Seat Recycling Program

Maxi-Cosi, as part of Dorel Australia was the first to participate in the National Car Seat Recycling Program in Australia. If you would like to recycle your used car seat, please drop them to one of the recycling centers by 30 September 2017 – http://bit.ly/2w5LV8b

Posted by Maxi-Cosi on Wednesday, 6 September 2017

 

If you would like to recycle your used car seat, please drop them to one of the recycling centers located in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland by 30 September 2017

http://bit.ly/2w5LV8b

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