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Tag Archives: Electronic Waste

Climate Active

Climate Active certification provides businesses and organisations with the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to managing their environmental impacts and committing to sustainable outcomes. Climate Active is the Australian Government backed program that enables business to measure, manage and offset carbon emissions from their operations or products and services. Organisations can also apply the certification to events, buildings and precincts that demonstrates their commitment to driving voluntary climate action in the growing face of pressures from customers and investors.

The Climate Active certification is awarded to organisations and businesses that have credibly reached state of carbon neutrality/ net zero emissions. The certification and verification process as well as public reporting requirements ensures that like for like businesses can be compared with respect to assessing, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions. 

The emergence of voluntary schemes such as Climate Active are driven by “social license” and responsible business practice. The scheme presents the opportunity to achieve greater staff engagement and demonstrate to customers you have in place a robust climate strategy commitment. The scheme aims to incentivise voluntary action, with the certification assisting the greater community by making it easier to identify brands, businesses and organisations that are committing to making a real difference.

Addressing barriers to Product Stewardship in Australia

Product stewardship calls for companies, supply chains and retailers to take greater responsibility for their services and products across their whole life cycle, from design to production to use and, finally, disposal. 

Earlier in July the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence released a white paper report “Addressing the Barriers: A needs assessment of product stewardship in Australia.” The paper aims to explore and understand the barriers to product stewardship in Australia, investigating opportunities for further development and expansion of product stewardship across the nation.

The paper discusses the major challenge such as free-riders; businesses or organisations that may benefit from product stewardship activity without contributing to the implementation or operation. 

Although not discussed in the paper, the voluntary trend of product stewardship in Australia is also an issue to consider. 

This trend is a particularly Australian phenomenon, as most other countries support regulatory approaches. Australian industry leadership towards product stewardship should be congratulated. For example, the recent announcement of the Australian Toy Association partnering with other leading brands to investigate product stewardship of toys, and the recognition of best practice for Tyre Stewardship Australia are positive developments. 

However, similar to the free-riding organisations, companies and industries who use voluntary as a means to defer, delay or avoid responsibility should be brought to account. 

Voluntary approaches cannot be realistically expected to work in a timely manner where there is no industry agreement and coordination, and where the brand owners are diffuse, have little or no local decision-making authority or are no longer trading. In such cases it at best will be a slow process and many years before some sort of voluntary approach is figured out. 

In general, the need for government intervention is generally greater the more complex the products and supply chain.

For product stewardship broadly to meet community expectations, to reach waste and recycling targets, to discourage free-riders and to support genuine leadership efforts, there therefore needs to be clear market signals that government will regulate when and where needed. 

While the Centre’s white paper correctly highlights key barriers, overcoming them will require the government to act where appropriate to put pressure on industry and ensure accountability, and that includes judicious use of regulatory powers.

Toy Industry to collaborate and develop sustainability solutions

The Australian Toy Association (ATA) has been supported with a through the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) delivered by Sustainability Victoria. This is a world first for the toy industry and another example of an industry taking responsibility for its products.

In collaboration with leading toy industry brands and retailers, the funding enables the ATA to develop and investigate circular economy options for toys. The project’s first stage will develop a material flows analysis, building an understanding of the movement of toys through the economy. The results of the analysis will link into the overarching project to develop solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of toys. 

Equilibrium congratulates ATA for their leadership and vision and is excited to partner with them on this project in developing circular economy options for toys.

New environmental laws in Victoria from July 1 2021

EPA Victoria will have increased powers from 1 July 2021 to prevent harm to public health and the environment from pollution and waste. 

The laws include sweeping changes which transforms EPA powers and requirements for business owners and operators. It is the responsibility of all business directors and managers to understand the new laws and how to comply. It is also your responsibility to make sure all employees understand requirements under the new laws.

One of the more pivotal and central changes is the introduction of the General Environmental Duty (GED). The GED is all-inclusive, applying to all businesses in Victoria, irrespective of size or type of operation. In short, under the GED, all Victorian businesses and organisations must take action to protect the environment and human health.

For many businesses in Victoria environmental risk management is already embedded into everyday operations, and the GED should require minimal change. However, now is the time to review systems against the new laws and be confident of compliance. It will be important to keep risk registers and risk management plans up to date and:

>Ensure environmental risk of pollution to land, air or water is assessed for all business activities.
>Action plans are in place to eliminate or control risks.
>Actions are implemented in a timely manner, and effectiveness monitored.
>Keep documented records of risk assessments and action plans to demonstrate

EPA Victoria provides guides and tools to help businesses comply with the GED, including:

>EPA Self-Assessment Tool – for supporting small business with action planning
>Assessing and Controlling Risk Business Guide – risk management framework for business
>Managing low risk activities
guidance for businesses with low risk, e.g. offices, cafes, retail.

ARENA launch $43 million Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced a $43 million grant program on behalf of the federal government to assist in identifying methods to cut industrial energy costs and emissions. The first round of the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program will offer $25 million to assist research and the development of business case projects for organisations in the mining, agriculture, manufacturing sectors, water supply, gas supply, waste services and data centres. Applicants can apply under one of two rounds: 

>Round 1A – Feasibility Studies (Up to $10 million available). Grants can be between $100,000 and $500,00 for up to 75% of eligible project costs
>Round 1B –
Engineering Studies (up to $15 million available). Grants can be between $250,000 and $5 million for up to 50% of eligible project costs.

The program aims to fund studies that deliver transformational improvements in de-carbonisation technology and energy efficiency practices for industry. Eligible projects must also demonstrate high replicability potential across similar industry settings.

Applications for the initial round of funding will be open on the 6th of July.

ARENA will be hosting separate information sessions for Round 1A and Round 1B in the week commencing 12 July, further information regarding these information sessions will be published on the Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program website in the coming weeks.

MMI open for recycling and clean energy manufacturing grants

Earlier this month, the federal government announced a series of Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) grants for major recycling and clean energy projects. The government is inviting applications under its Recycling and Clean Energy stream, offering grants on average of $4 million, ranging from $1 million to $20 million. The $1.3 billion in funding will assist manufacturers to scale up, commercialise and collaborate.

The MMI grant stream is now open and made up of two separate funding opportunities; 

>Manufacturing translation component: will assist manufacturers in expressing their ideas into commercial outcomes and encourage investment in non R&D innovation.
>Manufacturing integration component: will assist in commercializing innovative concepts, integrating into local and domestic supply chains.

The government has outlined examples of the grants, addressing the funding suitability to include activities which aim to enable greater use of recycled materials across supply chains, and/or that promote increased use of clean energy within their industrial systems.

Applications for these grants close on the 5th of May and businesses must provide co – funding.

Call for collaboration and coordination on circular economy

The CSIRO has released a National Circular Economy Roadmap calling for a national strategy to address fundamental environmental issues and foster regional development.

The Roadmap is a strong call for collaboration and coordination however it is somewhat limited in its scope and thereby risks compounding the problem of circular economy just being another term for standard practice.

The CSIRO defines circular economy as continually seeking reduction of the environmental impacts of production and consumption and enabling economic growth through more innovative uses of natural resources and efficient recovery of materials.

However, the Roadmap focusses on the end-of-pipe issues. It presents the 2018 recycling report figures for plastic, glass and paper as the indicators of a need for a change in current systems and strategies.

Nonetheless, the central recommendation highlights the critical need for Australia to adopt a unified and innovative circular economy strategy to achieve a national shift in mindset with lasting results and impact.

The report highlights:

> Lack of consistency across Australia particularly in waste governance, consumer education and industry standards along with differing definitions and practises.
>An “end of pipe” focus rather than upgrading product design materials selection and manufacturing.
>That the “take, make and dispose” way of thinking and consumption pattern has barriers including more expensive primary materials and unacceptable ways of dealing with waste.
>Australia’s economy and reliance on imported goods creates the need for a symbiotic strategy that links and aligns with global forces and activities.

All participants in the circular economy have a shared responsibility to make it efficient and effective, it is not just an environmental shift but a whole new way of economic thinking.

Australian Governments are currently promoting circular economy as primarily a waste and recycling policy – which is a limited scope of the concept.

The Australian Council of Recyclers has recently noted that the fervent use of the term circular economy risks just being a rebadging of current activities and programs. Or as the University of Queensland Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste director Johannes Biala put it  ”…we are at grave risk of merely exchanging one buzzword for another without conceptualising and defining what we mean and what we want to achieve.”

Government, industry, community and research all play paramount roles within this hypothetical yet achievable system.

The priorities set out in the CSIRO Roadmap highlight some specific moves needed to advance Australia towards a circular economy, and consistency, collaboration and coordination will be a good step.

To read the CSIRO report in full visit this link.

 

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 on product stewardship 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.

To read an Equilibrium piece on Next Level Product Stewardship, follow this link.

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.

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

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