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SMEs Weathering the COVID-19 Storm

From a recent article in Ondeck, Equilibrium’s Nick Harford shares some views about how a calm and steady approach to running an SME can help weather  the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following story was originally published online at Ondeck.

In March, COVID-19 struck, and Equilibrium’s contracts were frozen as the national carrier, and its subsidiary, grounded their flying fleets. The Melbourne-based firm, which includes a team of six consultants, provides a range of private and government sector organisations with technical and strategic compliance services such as energy audits, environmental management systems reviews, and waste and recycling management advice lost 50% of its work in a matter of weeks.

But rather than losing their heads, the steady and strategic Harford, along with business partner Damien Wigley, pivoted their SME, and focussed on a range of opportunities to help weather the COVID-19 storm, which has once again reared its unpleasant head in the Victorian capital.

Staying cool and seeking new markets

Harford, whose firm operates across diverse industries and sectors, says Equilibrium particularly focused on existing contacts and government work.

“In the past, we were sometimes cautious about bidding for some government tenders because from a business sense they are very competitive, can involve a significant investment in time, and the return can be very risky.”

“But we put in extra work when COVID-19 hit by being more open to government tenders and proposals and taking any opportunities that arose. We gave it a red-hot crack,” Harford confirms.

Equilibrium also identified a spike in government grants promoting recycling and other business activities. Harford explains, “This wasn’t a business opportunity for Equilibrium that involved us working with government directly but rather an opportunity to be advising and assisting other businesses to access government funding and other support programs.”

Networking into new business

Apart from pursuing government work, Nick and his team upped the ante on networking. “We worked our contacts hard, making sure we understood where they were at and how we could help them address their environment and sustainability compliance issues.”

These business development efforts enabled Equilibrium to collaborate with a major Australian manufacturer that responded early to the pandemic threat by pivoting from packaging into sanitary and hygiene products such as disinfectants.

“The manufacturer needed a hand to make sure they had a range of systems in place. This work resulted from connecting with our contacts to see if we could help people with their compliance or strategic challenges.”

Dealing with the lockdowns

Apart from the loss of revenue, Equilibrium has needed to manage the impact of the first raft of lockdown in Melbourne between April and June. “We had to make sure we could work online. We have people in four different locations nationally but given the nature of the work we do, it’s not too hard for us.

“With the latest restrictions in place in Melbourne, we feel we are well-prepared for another extended period of working from home arrangements.”

Nick’s three tips for surviving COVID-19

1. Don’t panic:  Review the business profoundly and frequently. By not panicking and taking advantage of government support such as JobKeeper and the payroll tax relief, we have been able to keep all our staff employed.

2. Be prepared to take opportunities from left field:  Quickly pivot into new business opportunities when lockdowns and restrictions arise.

3. Cut unnecessary costs:  The other owner and I are also taking less income when needed. Where our people are underutilised, we’ve used them for other activities such as business development and to assist our marketing and communications activities.

Make contact with the Equilibrium team if you need help navigating COVID-19 from an environmental, waste or sustainability angle:  BH (03) 9372 5356.

______

Prepared by OnDeck Capital Australia for general information purposes only. Content may belong to or have originated from third parties and OnDeck takes no responsibility for the accuracy, validity, reliability or completeness of any information. Information current as at July 2020. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, financial or any other decisions. 

Boosting Product Stewardship Outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of the Product Stewardship Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming the Waste Industry

The Morrison Government will commit $190 million to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that will generate $600 million of recycling investment and drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.

Announced today by The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment, and The Hon Trevor Evans MP, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, the fund will help create more than 10,000 jobs with over 10 million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill.

The RMF will support innovative investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass, with Commonwealth funding contingent on co-funding from industry, states and territories.

Australia’s waste and recycling transformation is being further strengthened by an additional:

> $35 million to implement Commonwealth commitments under Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan, which sets the direction for waste management and recycling in Australia until 2030.

> $24.6 million on Commonwealth commitments to improve our national waste data so it can measure recycling outcomes and track progress against our national waste targets.

> The introduction of new Commonwealth waste legislation to formally enact the Government’s waste export ban and encourage companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate, from product design through to recycling, remanufacture or disposal (Product Stewardship).

The moves are part of a national strategy to change the way Australia looks at waste, grow our economy, protect our environment and reach a national resource recovery target of 80% by 2030.

“As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy,” Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said today.

“At the same time, we need to stop throwing away tonnes of electronic waste and batteries each year and develop new ways to recycle valuable resources.

“As we pursue National Waste Policy Action Plan targets, we need manufacturers and industry to take a genuine stewardship role that helps create a sustainable circular economy.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said that the unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity followed close consultation with industry.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry.

The full media release can be viewed here.

If you are interested in the announcements or need assistance in assessing the opportunhities, please contact the Equilibrium team on BH (03) 9372 5356.

 

New EPA Regulations for Victoria 2020

Major reforms to Victoria’s Environment Protection regulations represent a major transformation to how EPA Victoria will operate to protect public health and the environment.

In July 2020, the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 will come into effect and it represents a major shift in the regulations and their state- wide application. The key elements of the Act cover the following themes:

> Prevention
> Flexible and risk-based
>
Transparency
>
Justice

General environmental duty

General environmental duty (GED) is a key focus and a new concept under the Act. The EPA’s definition for GED is:

“A person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable”.

The EPA talks about a three-step process to comply with GED:

1. The duty holder needs to understand the risks that pollution or waste from their activities might present to human health or the environment.
2. The ways those risks can be controlled need to be identified and understood.
3. Duty holders are required to put in place any reasonably practicable measures to reduce the likelihood of the possible harm arising.

The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 involves various other requirements that will affect businesses and industry. More information is available via the EPA Victoria website.

Equilibrium will be assisting its clients across diverse industries and sectors to comply with the Act. We will continue to unpack the Act and share our observations in future blogs. If you have any questions about the  changes, please contact the team at Equilibrium:

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

For our previous post on the Victorian EPA, visit here.

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.

 

Review of Standards and Specifications for Recycled Content

This project uncovered a diverse range of issues and views, from high-level structural themes through to leadership capacity and very specific observations about particular material types, standards and performance.

Equilibrium was engaged by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to undertake a review of current Australian standards and specifications for recycled content products including providing details on current documentation for the use of recycled materials in product manufacturing, buildings and infrastructure works.

As part of the engagement Equilibrium consulted with key stakeholders on their views as to whether the absence of any particular standards or specifications may be obstructing the take-up of recycled materials. Stakeholder interviews also canvassed broader factors influencing increased use of recycled materials.

The report contains a list of current standards and specifications as well as a compilation of the consultation results, general findings and recommendations.  Appendix A of the report is available as a separate MS Excel file.  Also attached is a summary report containing examples from the main report, as well as information gained from interviews with stakeholders.

Your can download a copy of the report and appendices here.

For NSW’s response to create end markets by fostering demand for recycled products, read our blog post here.

More information

Damien Wigley
General Manager
Equilibrium
damien@equil.com.au

 

 

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

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