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Tag Archives: environmental regulations

Waste Export License

The Australian Government has implemented the Waste Export Ban, and has begun to regulate the export of Australian of certain wastes.

As of July 2021, glass and mixed plastics “waste” are regulated for export. Baled and whole tyres are set to be regulated from the 1st of December and other materials  including cardboard and mixed paper by July 2022. Separate requirements are required for hazardous waste.

Each type of waste stream will have its own regulation start date and rules. To continue to export waste, organisations will have to:

>Meet the requirements and rules or be exempted
>Declare each consignment
>Hold a waste export license for the waste type

Under this ban, exporters and organisations which meet these specific requirements are able to apply for a license to export regulated waste overseas. Waste export licenses are granted for a period of up to three years for organisations who meet certain criteria.

Equilibrium has developed a guide and can help with the waste export license application. For more information please contact us or visit the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

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.

Greenwashing and the ‘race to zero’

Global markets, shareholders and consumers are impelling corporates to announce climate action and net zero policies across the globe. This movement has resulted in a rush of company directors announcing net zero pledges without fully examining their capacity and ability to meet their goals.

Renew Economy stressed that failures to meet these goals, could be considered “guilty or misleading conduct”, resulting in legal or regulatory penalties. The long timeframe to achieve net zero goals and the current lack of clear, unified regulatory approach, may have set a false sense of ease. In March, The Conversation among other researchers published the first analysis of net zero commitments of 4,000+ sub-national governments and companies which account for 80% of global emissions. The study highlighted that only 60% of plans announced interim targets and 62% of the corporates announced reporting mechanisms.

If corporates are serious with their net zero intent, it will be met with robust measures in place and pledging a target which can be held accountable by shareholders and consumers. Credibility should be demonstrated by accreditations from impartial mechanisms such as a science-based target, which will validate whether the plan is credible. Last week Australia Post and Newcastle Port have become the latest Australian organisation to have their emissions targets recognised by the Science-Based Targets program, validating both the corporates’ efforts to limit temperature rise “well below two degrees”.

Net zero targets are statements of corporate intent, and should not be made unless research has been undertaken to ensure they are deliverable. Corporates are encouraged to seek advice and support regarding this. Goals should be genuine, and importantly realistic in their approach to reach net zero.

National Plastics Plan maps longer term approach

The Australian Government last week launched the National Plastics Plan to reduce plastics waste through a multi aspect approach, looking at both the upstream and downstream methods to limit plastic waste. The plan aims to help ensure Australia meets its waste targets, prompting government to work alongside essential industry and other supply chain holders. The plan outlines wide ranging initiatives, acting on five different fronts;

  • > Prevention: Addressing plastics at the source, phasing out packaging products that do not meet the relevant compostable standards, plastic free beach initiatives, prompting industry shift to easily recyclable plastics and national packaging targets.
    >Recycling: Introduction of waste export bans, product stewardship programs, enforcing material performance standards and national packaging targets.
    >Consumer education: Achieve consistency in kerbside bin collections, container deposit schemes and better recycling information for consumers.
    >Plastics in our oceans and waterways: Take actions to reduce plastics leaking into the environment, such as pursuing a global coordinated action on marine litter and micro plastic pollution and initiating industry led cigarette butt litter stewardship schemes.
    >Research: Investment into new data systems and plastic technologies, designed to track how plastic flows through our economy. Develop a circular economy and roadmap and distribute cooperative research centre projects grants.

To read the plan in detail, visit The National Plastics Plan.

New waste-related regulations for Queensland

How your business can identify early opportunities to improve environmental performance and prepare accordingly.

The schedule of waste-related Environmentally Relevant Activities (ERAs) has remained largely unchanged since they were introduced on 1990s. Since this time there have been significant changes in waste management practices, the emergence of new waste technologies and improvements in risk-based waste classification that were not considered when the current waste-related ERAs were developed.

This short blog discusses the new regulations, identifies potential impacts on Queensland businesses and provides solutions for assistance with meeting new requirements.

In short, the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation (2018) now allows the overall risk of waste management activities to be more accurately assessed, determined by the classification of waste and the type and scale of the process being undertaken, so that an appropriate level of regulation can be applied by the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

With the newly released Waste ERA Framework now in effect, Queensland based companies operating in the recovery, transport, storage (including west transfer stations), processing, treatment (including incineration and thermal treatment), recycling and disposal of waste and recyclable materials may be impacted as a result of the introduction of new waste classification categories, threshold changes and the application of risk-based regulation for waste management and other environmentally relevant activities.

It is anticipated that the new Regulations will largely involve an overall increase in cost to process and manage waste streams in Queensland, which will ultimately impact the waste and recycling industry through increased compliance costs.

Businesses can expect that environmental licences and permit costs (applications and annual fees) will change, and in many cases increase. It is also anticipated that activities currently not requiring an Environmental Authority may need to apply based on potential threshold changes.

Are you a target industry or facility?

The new waste-related ERA framework provides improved regulation and clear regulatory support for new and emerging technologies. If you are operating a business that processes organic materials, operates a waste disposal facility or transfer station (including tyre storage) the regulation changes could impact on your existing Environmental Authorities (EA) over the next 12 months as well as potentially require you to apply for a new EA in line with the changes to ERAs and other threshold limits.

If you operate a metal recovery, crushing, milling or screening, battery recycling, regulated waste transport, storage, reprocessing, treatment of waste tyre recycling facility then from 1 July 2019 there may be changes to relating to your EA to operate.

If you need to transition to the new ERA thresholds or make an amendment application to your existing EA, then in most instances this will need to be completed by 15 November 2019. If you need to apply for authorisation to conduct an activity under a new EA then the deadline is 12 months from 23 November 2018. The date when the new regulation came into effect.

With new classifications now applicable to regulated waste, your site activities may now be classified as a higher risk, impacting on not only your operations but also the annual fees payable to the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

If you are looking to apply a new ERA for your site, if it is prescribed (concurrence) ERA then there may be a requirement to apply for a development permit where there is a material change of use under the Planning Act 2016 and Planning Regulation 2017.

It is through these changes and the introduction of a landfill levy, commencing 1 July 2019, that the Queensland Government is providing the resource recovery and waste sector with the policy certainty that has been lacking within the state, leading to significant under-investment in new and expanded resource recovery infrastructure in Queensland and inhibiting the transformation and growth of Queensland’s recycling and waste management industry.

The benefits of improved environmental performance

The Regulation provides for a reduction in annual fees payable by demonstrating good environmental performance and where there has been no compliance action taken against your business by DES in the previous three years.

If you ascertain that your environmental emissions score is lower than that used to assign the risk to your business, you are a partner of the ecoBiz program or have an accredited Environmental Management System you could also be eligible for a discount of between 10% and 50% of your annual fee.

There may also be transitional exemptions for existing recycling and recovery facilities or discounts for new or existing recycling facilities which contribute to making Queensland self-sufficient in waste processing.

Conclusion

Being on top of your regulatory and compliance requirements is a prudent and commercially astute approach. The community expects it, and customers increasingly demand it. Being prepared is the key, and it is as a strategy that can minimise risk and maximise corporate responsibility, while also achieving annual fee reductions and improved product and process outputs.

The right activities and preparation can greatly reduce the amount payable to not only conduct an ERA but also to dispose of certain waste residual from recycling activities.

Don’t hesitate to make contact if you have specific queries or issues associated with the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation.

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters and Damien Wigley.

More information

For more information contact Damien Wigley at damien@equil.com.au or mobile 0404 899 961

New Victorian Regulations Released Early

The Victorian Government is releasing new environmental regulations earlier than expected.

The new environmental regulations will form a key pillar for increased EPA enforcement powers and tougher penalties, particularly when it comes to environmental risk prevention.

In short, the new regulations will provide the EPA with expanded powers to regulate businesses to reduce the risk of environmental harm and pollution.

The earlier than expected release means that businesses should become familiar with the new legislation and likely compliance issues.

The EPA has noted some specific sectors for attention under the new regulations, including those involving high-risk activities such as chemical manufacturing, food and beverage processing, waste management, recycling, plastic fabrication moulders, organics processing and agriculture.

A recent report in Footprint News[1] said Victoria’s ‘consolidated environmental regulations to support Victoria’s new environment law will be released for comment in July’.

Consultation is planned

The process for consultation has yet to be detailed, however, according to Footprint News, it is expected that specially arranged consultations with current EPA licence holders will be conducted. These businesses can expect some change, particularly with licence reviews, potentially requiring the development of new systems and processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

Businesses that do not currently operate under an EPA licence should also look closely at the potential impacts of the new laws, and where possible take early action. This would include ensuring a full understanding of environmental risks, and factor-in sufficient time to budget for any operational changes that may be needed.

As the regulations are introduced, businesses that operate potentially high-risk activities are likely to see an increased level of interest from the EPA. High-risk activities include materials recycling, waste handling, chemical storage, and other activities that may generate hazardous emissions or odours.

In essence, these types of activities are inherent to a range of different industries such as chemical manufacturing, food and beverage processing, plastic fabrication, waste management, recycling, organics processors, and agriculture.

Guidance materials

Other activities underway within the EPA includes the development of guidance materials designed to assist businesses to comply with new environmental laws. An example of which includes the Guideline for Management and Storage of Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials, released in October 2018.

The process for environmental law reform began in 2016 when the Victorian Government conducted a public inquiry into the function of the EPA, which drew particular attention from both business and community into the EPA’s role in preventing environmental harm. This review led to an overhaul of environmental legislation in Victoria and the amended Environmental Protection Act, which is due to commence on 1 July 2020[2].

The EPA is holding information sessions for business and community wanting to learn more about the new environmental laws, and the potential impacts[3].

More information

This article was authored by Nicholas Harford, Managing Director of Equilibrium consultants. He can be contacted at nick@equil.com.au or mobile 0419 993 234

[1] https://www.footprintnews.com.au/

[2] https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-us/response-to-epa-inquiry

[3] https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/victorias-new-environment-protection-laws-and-their-impacts-tickets-51953079058

Product Stewardship and the benefits of establishing a robust downstream management and verification program

Australia’s Hazardous Waste Act regulates the export and import of hazardous waste into and out of Australia by way of the Basel Convention, Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development Decision and the Waigani Convention. As a party to these conventions and agreements, Australia has an obligation to ensure that the stewardship legislation that applies to our waste and exporting activities does not impact on international destinations. As such, Australia’s responsibilities and obligations to the export of end products as a direct result of product stewardship activities lies with the manufacturer/producer and should not be contracted out to buyers, sellers, brokers or agents without appropriate due diligence.

Australia’s product stewardship arrangements are not alone or protected from ensuring that exported materials through the supply chain go to an environmentally sound use. This will become more important as new product stewardship programs are developed which could result in waste, that is not classified as hazardous in accordance with the Act its regulations, undergoing further treatment (dismantling for product recovery) or used in facilities (for example for energy recovery, energy generation or pyrolysis) that don’t have the same stringent controls in place to protect the environment or safeguards in place to protect the health and safety of workers. Other by-products might even be illegally dumped or incinerated.

With a number of Australian industries signalling a strong intension to move towards a circular economical way to value product and service inputs and outputs, we need to become smarter as to how we assess our downstream supply chains and in particular health and environmental impacts.

Equilibrium has started a review of international programs with the aim of providing guidance to Australian companies to ensure that they aren’t just providing a burden to other countries and enduring reputational risk but rather ensuring exported materials are destined for an environmentally sound use.

This guidance is expected to be completed in early 2017.