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Tag Archives: Batteries

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

NZ moves on regulated product stewardship

The New Zealand Government is proposing a new way to deal with environmentally harmful products before they become waste, including plastic packaging and bottles, as part of a wider plan to avoid rubbish ending up in landfill.

Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage released a public consultation document titled, “Proposed priority products and priority product stewardship scheme guidelines” at the Sustainability Trust in Wellington today (9 August 2019)

You can download the consultation paper here.

“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation and want to help ensure we live up to it.

“Well-designed product stewardship schemes ensure that those making, selling and using products all help take responsibility to recover the materials and avoid them ending up in landfills,” Eugenie Sage said.

“This is the first time that Government has been serious about creating regulated, rather than voluntary, product stewardship schemes in New Zealand.

“Regulated product stewardship is a step towards changing that and to designing waste out of production. This is part of a longer-term goal of moving to a more efficient, low-emissions, sustainable and inclusive economy for New Zealand.

“Regulated product stewardship helps puts the responsibility for effective material and waste management on product manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature,” she said.

Priority product categories proposed for regulated product stewardship schemes are:

> packaging, including beverage containers and plastic packaging
> tyres
> electrical and electronic products (e-waste), starting with lithium-ion
> batteries
> refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases
> agrichemicals and their containers and other farm plastics.

“This is the first time the tools for regulated product stewardship in the Waste Minimisation Act are being looked at seriously, although they have been in the Act since 2008.

“The 14 existing accredited schemes are all voluntary. While some, such as the Agrecovery scheme for agricultural chemical containers have provided significant benefits, much more can be achieved with a comprehensive regulated scheme which creates a level playing field and helps reduce waste and the risk of environmental from it.

“Today’s proposal also presents potential economic benefits. Many products and materials presently lost to landfill could be recovered and reused throughout the economy creating new business opportunities and new jobs.

“Products that have reached the end of their life can be used to make something new, especially if they are designed better for reuse and recycling.

“Consultation is the first step towards regulation, deciding which products are declared ‘priority products’ and allowing mandatory regulation to be used under the Waste Minimisation Act.

The next step will be to work with business and other stakeholders to co-design regulations that will work for them and the environment” Eugenie Sage Said.

Overseas experience shows that this can be done at minimal new cost to business or consumers. Before any regulations are passed, the costs and benefits will be fully spelled out and consulted on.

Consultation on what products should be considered is open now and closes on October 4 2019. Learn more here: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/priorityproducts

More information

If you are an Australian-based supplier, manufacturer or brand operating in the New Zealand market and need some guidance or support with the consultation process, contact Nick Harford at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

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.

 

 

 

 

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