Product Stewardship – An Insider’s Guide
We look at priority products and ask – is Product Stewardship progressing in Australia?
1. WINNER – Packaging
Packaging stewardship has recently taken a major leap forward via the announcement of 10 cents container deposit schemes in both NSW and Queensland. With South Australia having a scheme since the 1970s, once both the NSW and Queensland schemes come online, container deposits will cover close to three quarters of the Australian population.
2. WINNER – Paint
Product Stewardship usually means the government enforcing recycling levies on products. However, the paint industry has stepped up to create Paintback.
Paintback is a cost-effective way for residents and trade painters to remove waste paint and packaging. It is funded through a 15 cents (plus GST) per litre levy on eligible products (authorised by the ACCC), between 1 litre and 20 litres inclusive.
The monies collected go to Paintback Ltd, which is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. These funds will be used to establish and operate the collection program and research new ways to repurpose unwanted paint materials.
Paintback will establish collection points Australia-wide, starting in major population areas and aiming to have 70 permanent sites over the next three years.
3. CONSOLATION PRIZE – Used Machine Oil
Oil Stewardship remains one of the big successes of the Australian recycling, with national oil recovery sitting currently at close to 50% (the Commonwealth reports that approximately 631 megalitres of machine oils are sold every year, of which around 315 megalitres are recovered).
Oil recovery happens in both fuel manufacture, as well as recovery to being usable oil again via vacuum distillation. The latter process means oil is one of the few products which undergoes cradle to cradle recovery – that is – no product loss in recycling. Oil recyclers have asked that the levy be lifted to 12 cent per litre, which would add less than $1 per annum to the cost of an average vehicle service. Surely we can afford that?
4. CONSOLATION PRIZE – E-waste
E-waste remains a challenge, but some progress has been made. The world’s fastest-growing ‘waste’ stream, e-waste is currently included under the Product Stewardship Act 2011 as a co-regulatory arrangement.
This means that Government and industry work together to capture and recovery this stream. The arrangement has has mixed success, with some industry collection bodies withdrawing, citing poor margins. However, giant tech players like Apple continue to advance their recycling programs.
5. SHOWING REAL PROGRESS – Tyres
The management of end-of-life tyres remains a challenge with legacy stockpiles still causing some concern, especially in rural and regional areas. However, the establishment of Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) is now starting to pay dividends with more than 1,200 organisations accredited under the national scheme. Fully funded by the tyre industry, TSA undertakes audit and compliance activities, delivers an industry development program across the tyre recycling sector and has invested more than $1.5 million in research and development to open up new markets for recycled tyre products.
There may still be a way to go with tyres but TSA is making genuine headway in this challenging market.
THE VERDICT – Product Stewardship has seen very significant progress in the last 12 months, considering Paintback and two new container deposits schemes. But with other products such as white goods, gas canisters and batteries in need of stewardship, more work needs to be done.