Section 107 of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 requires the Minister to provide an annual report on the operation of the Act. This section meets this reporting requirement for 2015–16.
The Act implements important elements of the National Waste Policy, which is Australia’s strategic framework for waste management and resource recovery. It provides a national framework to manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products and the impacts associated with the disposal of products.
The objects of the Act are to:
reduce the impact that products have on the environment throughout their lives
reduce the impact that substances contained in products have on the environment and on human health and safety throughout the lives of those products
contribute to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, energy used and water consumed in connection with products and waste from products.
The Act provides for three levels of product stewardship: voluntary, co-regulatory and mandatory.
Voluntary product stewardship
Part 2 of the Act provides for voluntary product stewardship. Under the Act, organisations can voluntarily seek accreditation from the Government for product stewardship arrangements and request permission to use product stewardship logos.
No new voluntary product stewardship arrangements were accredited in 2015–16. The Department continued to work with the two existing approved arrangements: MobileMuster, administered by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association; and FluoroCycle, administered by the Lighting Council of Australia.
Part 3 of the Product Stewardship Act provides for co-regulatory product stewardship.
The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, set up by the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations 2011, is the only co-regulatory scheme under the Act. The scheme sets industry-funded annual recycling targets for end-of-life televisions and computer products. Importers and manufacturers of these products fund collection and recycling through membership fees paid through industry-run co-regulatory arrangements. There are four co-regulatory arrangements approved by the Minister to provide services under the scheme. These arrangements are administered by the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform, E-Cycle Solutions, Electronics Product Stewardship Australasia and MRI PSO.
The administrators of each of the four co-regulatory arrangements must ensure that the arrangements achieve the outcomes specified in the Act and Regulations. These include providing e waste collection services to communities in metropolitan, regional and remote areas of Australia, meeting annual recycling targets and ensuring that at least 90 per cent of the materials derived from recycling e-waste are made available to be re-used in manufacturing new products.
Following an operational review of the scheme in 2014–15, amendments to the Regulations took effect on 1 July 2015 to increase recycling targets to meet stronger demand for recycling services and ensure stability and continuing capacity in the e-waste recycling industry. The effect of these amendments includes:
raising the target for industry-funded recycling to 50 per cent of available e-waste for 2015–16 and adjusting the target trajectory for future years to reach 80 per cent in 2026–27, ensuring the scheme is better aligned with the community’s need for recycling services in the short to medium term
making the scheme fairer for importers of televisions and computers by improving the accuracy of estimates of the amount of waste available for recycling each year
changing product codes for televisions to become weight based rather than screen size based
adding or removing other product codes to reflect changes in technology
changing conversion factors for specific product codes to better reflect current product weights, reducing costs to industry.
Further details are provided in a fact sheet on our website.
Part 4 of the Act provides for mandatory product stewardship, where both requirements and outcomes are prescribed in regulations. No schemes have been established under these provisions of the Act.
Annual product list
Section 108A of the Act requires that, each year, the Minister publish a list of classes of products proposed to be considered for some form of accreditation or regulation under the Act in the following year and the reason (or reasons) why the Minister is proposing to consider them. Publication of this annual product list gives the community and business certainty about products considered for coverage by the Act and provides the opportunity for them to contribute to analysis and development of options.
The Act requires that 12 months notice be given before a mandatory or co-regulatory approach is applied to a particular product, and the annual product list serves as this notice. In 2016 the Minister published the fourth annual product list. The list included plastic microbeads, electrical and electronic products, photovoltaic systems, batteries and plastic oil bottles. Paint, which had been included in the previous list, was removed due to the successful launch of PaintBack, an industry-led product stewardship scheme for paint, by the former Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, on 2 May 2016.
Section 108B(1) of the Act established the Product Stewardship Advisory Group to advise the Minister on products that may be considered for some form of accreditation or regulation under the Act in the next financial year.
The Product Stewardship Advisory Group did not meet in 2015–16. The Australian Government has announced its intention to abolish the group, a change that will require amendments to the Act. The intention is that, after such amendments are made, the Minister will publish the annual product list and the Department will consult experts and industry.