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Tag Archives: E-waste

Know the fate of your recyclables

Not knowing where your waste is going can lead to reputational and regulatory risks. Equilibrium explains how its networks are helping the waste industry keep track of the downstream supply chain.

In 2011-12 Australia exported 4.4 million tonnes of waste valued at $2.4 million or 0.8 per cent of Australia’s total exports, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

During that year the value of Australia’s waste exports tripled to $696 million, when compared to 2000-1 levels. While recent national figures are in short supply, the National Waste Report 2016 shows 26 per cent of Victoria’s recyclables was exported overseas in 2014-15, indicating exports still remains a key part of Australia’s waste management strategy.

Keeping track of where this waste ends up can be a challenge, much less ascertaining whether the materials were subject to environmentally sound management.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provides a working definition of environmentally sound management as follows:

“A scheme for ensuring that wastes and used and scrap materials are managed in a manner that will save natural resources and protect human health and the environment against adverse effects that may result from such wastes and materials”.

According to Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium, without transparency in the downstream supply chain, recyclers leave themselves exposed to reputational and regulatory risks. The core issue is: if you’re collecting and on-selling or shipping material for recycling, do you know how it is it being recycled?

Equilibrium’s information sheet on downstream assurance services provides further detail on the process.

“Reputational risk occurs when a material that you have collected and said will be recycled is inappropriately or illegally disposed of. In the waste industry, we are all familiar with concerns about e-waste going to third world or developing nations where it’s inappropriately handled, sometimes burnt with no pollution control and at great risk to human health,” Nicholas says.

“No company wants to end up in a situation where its reputation is on the line, whether you work in council, operate a materials recovery facility or a recycling company. If you’re in local government and in collect kerbside collection, you want to be confident that the household effort is being supported by environmentally sound management.”

Nicholas explains the regulatory risk occurs through the unlawful control of hazardous material exports, and whether the end use has the correct regulatory licence or permit to operate within the country and ensure control of emissions in line with best practice.

He says it is particularly important to know where materials are going for waste streams such as e-waste and tyres. Some kerbside recyclables may also require an export or transport licence, he adds.

Nicholas says tyres may have an overlay of being potentially hazardous materials. According to the Commonwealth Hazardous Waste Act, a permit must be obtained before hazardous waste can be exported out of Australia. A basic requirement of the Act is that waste shipments may only take place between countries which are parties to the Basel Convention, except where a specific formal arrangement exists. The Australian Government has banned exports of waste for final disposal except in exceptional circumstances, therefore not knowing whether your waste is being recovered or going to landfill can leave you exposed.

Damien Wigley, General Manager, Equilibrium, explains the company offers a step-wise service to the waste industry which can help alleviate downstream supply chain uncertainty and better track waste movements.

To identify and generate downstream supply chain distribution networks, Damien says Equilibrium has used multiple platforms to inform the program and is currently considering the application of blockchain for such purposes.

“A comprehensive process is required to clearly understand the movement of waste streams initially and it can vary depending on the type of materials and where (internationally) they are being sent to.

“There may be some certification system that requires the tracking of materials and that information may be accessible by a product stewardship program or another voluntary scheme, but to understand the document trail and access it in a timely manner is complicated,” Damien says.

“We’ve invested a number of years and resources into this program, including examining numerous certification processes such as the Conflict Minerals Programme as well as the Forest Stewardship Council and how they access and develop chain of custody programs.”

An example of Equilibrium’s work is how it is assisting the Federal Government Department of the Environment and Energy and its administration of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS). Equilibrium helped the Department to develop a methodology to assess the material recovery rate of e-waste.

“We had to look at places around the world to see how the material was being recycled and ensure it was consistent with the NTCRS and specific requirements under the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations,” Nicholas says.

“We considered several certification schemes and their requirements to ensure a document trail was accessible, and to say with confidence that we knew where the material was going.”

He says it is not a straightforward process, potentially involving multiple parties who may not want to share information that they consider to be intellectual property.

Equilibrium is on hand to assist clients in developing a tailored program that is relevant to the business and meets all requirements, both internal and external.

You can download Equilibrium’s downstream assurance information sheet here.

Originally published on 13 March 2018 in Waste Management online.

Funding for resource recovery and recycling

Several government grant programs targeting resource recovery, recycling and associated activities are currently open or imminent, and worth reviewing in more detail.

A combination of recurring annual programs as well as funding triggered by the China National Sword Policy, are providing opportunities for a diverse range of projects from machinery and infrastructure, through to feasibility studies and market development.

Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have announced programs that will be of interest to councils, regional groups, businesses and social enterprises.

The following snapshot outlines several grant programs by State and funding focus.

Queensland

Detailed information is available here.

$100 million program for industry development

The Queensland Government has announced a $100 million funding program to work with business and local councils to develop a high-value resource recovery industry.

The funding will target three areas of focus:

> Infrastructure or machinery up to $5 million on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

> Incentives for the development of new large-scale facilities.

> Support for advanced feasibility studies for innovative resource recovery and waste management projects.

The funding program is planned to open later in 2018.

New South Wales

Detailed information is available here.

Product Improvement Program – Round 1
The Product Improvement Program provides industry an opportunity to identify new uses and markets for recyclable materials, and to develop local processing and remanufacturing capability to help ensure recycling services are maintained in future years. $4.5 million has been allocated to the first round of the program. Individual grants of $50,000 to $1 million are available to fund up to 50% of the capital costs for equipment and infrastructure.

Circulate, Industrial Ecology Program– Round 3
The Circulate program offers grants of between $20,000 and $150,000 to fund innovative, commercially-oriented industrial ecology projects that focus on the commercial and industrial (C&I) and construction and demolition (C&D) sectors in NSW. Circulate supports projects that will recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill, to be used as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes. Changes have been made to this round to include projects that deal with solid waste and materials not only diverted from landfill but also materials impacted by China’s National Sword Policy. A total of $2.5 million in funding is available in Round 3.

Civil Construction Market Program – Round 1
The Civil Construction Market Program offers grants of up to $250,000 to eligible organisations to promote the use of waste from one civil construction project as a useful input into another. This program aims to reduce the amount of C&D waste being sent to landfill, reduce the amount of C&D material being stockpiled and to promote innovative resource recovery activities in the NSW Civil Construction sector. Source materials have now been broadened to include glass, paper, cardboard and plastics from MRFs in NSW civil construction projects. This change is designed to help drive end markets for post-consumer recyclate. A total of $2.5 million in funding is available in Round 1.

Victoria

Detailed information is available here.

The Research and Development Grants Program supports the aims of the Victorian Market Development Strategy for Recovered Resources to stimulate markets for the use of recovered resources, increase job creation, develop quality products for end markets, and increase investment in products made from recovered resources.

The program will support the identification of markets that have the potential to use significant and consistent volumes of recovered materials.

In May 2018 a new round of $2.5m R&D grants funding was announced. The funding will provide research institutions and industry the opportunity to undertake R&D projects such as field trials that explore alternative and more value-added uses of priority waste materials. These materials include organics, rubber (tyres), e-waste, plastics, glass fines, concrete and other emerging priority materials.

The grants are expected to open in July 2018.

The Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund valued at approximately $13 million aims to support the development of infrastructure that improves the collection and processing of recycled materials. The program seeks innovative projects that will increase jobs in the resource recovery industry while also increasing the recovery of priority materials. Projects must be completed by 31 March 2021.

The Fund began in 2017 and to date two funding rounds have awarded approximately 27 infrastructure projects in metro and regional Victoria with over $9 million. The Round 1 and Round 2 projects supported so far are expected to create over 140 jobs in Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector and are expected to divert at least 500,000 tonnes of material from landfill each year. More information about the Fund’s achievements and progress to date is below.

Round 3 Grants – Applications Open

Round 3 has up to $3 million available for infrastructure grants. Projects located in and servicing Victoria can apply for between $40,000 and $500,000 in funding for infrastructure development. Infrastructure can be for collection, sorting or processing.

Round 3 is seeking projects that target food organics, rigid and soft plastics, paper and cardboard, and e-waste re-processing as priority materials. However, projects addressing the future resource recovery infrastructure needs and opportunities identified in the Regional Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plans developed by the Waste and Resource Recovery Groups (WRRGs) will also be supported.

It’s important to register your interest to apply to receive the relevant documentation to submit your proposal by 3pm, 31 July 2018.

More information

Contact Damien or Nicholas for more information about how Equilibrium can assist with grant and funding applications:

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

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

 

 

 

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.

 

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