NWRIC welcomes Battery Stewardship Scheme but importers must sign up

NWRIC has welcomed the announcement by the ACCC that it has authorised a national scheme for managing expired batteries through the Battery Stewardship Council (BSC), but it says with major battery importers yet to sign up to the voluntary scheme its efficacy is in doubt.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said while the recycling scheme was long overdue, it would play an important role in removing batteries from mainstream waste as long as all importers were on board.

“We need to get batteries out of rubbish and recycling bins and into separate collection and recycling channels. Stopping fires in trucks and at processing facilities as well as contamination of compost are proof points for the scheme’s implementation.

“This scheme is a step in the right direction but has been a work in progress since 2013. A start date of late 2021 is far too long and there’s no confirmation that all the major importers are involved.”

The Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association (CESA), in a letter to the ACCC in July this year said their members, including Duracell, Energizer, Eveready and Varta had not agreed to sign up to the voluntary scheme.

“The scheme’s viability relies on a levy imposed of four cents per 24 grams (the weight of a AA battery) on batteries imported into Australia, with the money used to pay recyclers to collect, sort and process the batteries.

“A big concern is that if all the battery producers and importers aren’t signed up, particularly as CESA members account for over 50% of the Australian market, there won’t be sufficient levies raised to fund an effective national scheme,” Ms Read said.

“There’s also concern that the ACCC’s approval will not address the free rider issues which will limit the scheme’s ability to divert batteries from landfill as well as removing the current risks faced by collection and sorting staff.”

NWRIC has long been calling for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries to protect staff, critical infrastructure and maximise resource recovery.

“For the scheme to be successful and gain public trust, NWRIC encourages the BSC to ensure there is strong governance and transparency in place.

“There should be clear separation between scheme management and service providers (i.e. collectors and recyclers), public tenders for collection and recycling service providers as well as regular public reporting on annual targets and achievements in a timely manner.

“There would be much more confidence in the scheme being successful if it was regulated under the Product Stewardship Act to ensure all producers are contributing their fair share and there is transparency on performance in diversion of batteries out of red and yellow bins. There also needs to be equity for collection and recycling providers, and for the community to have free, readily available access and knowledge of the service.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled,” Ms Read said.


NWRIC welcomes SA ban of single use plastics

The announcement that South Australia has become the first state to ban single-use plastics in Australia has been welcomed by NWRIC as a step in the right direction to removing problematic plastics.

The ban on sale, supply and distribution of straws, cutlery and beverage stirrers will not come into effect until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic and has not ruled out being extended to include other products.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the ban helped remove problematic plastics from the waste stream.

“Single-use plastics not only cause environmental problems but from an industry perspective they also cause issues within recycling processes.

“The real concern is industry’s ability to collect, sort and recycle single-use plastics, due to material type, contamination and lack of markets.”

Ms Read said while a number of other states are progressing their implementation of bans on single-use plastics there needs to be national consistency.

“I understand there is a lot of collaboration among the states and intent to follow South Australia’s lead.

“Following public consultation in Queensland a ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery also looks to come into effect from 1 July 2021.

“Similarly, the ACT also has plans to ban single-use plastics, including cutlery, stirrers, and expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers, however this is also on hold until July 2021.

Ms Read said that while it was encouraging that states were looking to implement bans, ideally, it would be more effective and efficient for all stakeholders if the banning of single-use plastics fell under the Australian Government’s Product Stewardship Act.

“National product stewardship schemes including bans ensure that the real costs to human and environmental health are funded by those organisations who produce and place them into the market,” Ms Read said.


Tyre stockpile highlights need for state government and tyre industry action

This week saw the public exposure of a tyre stockpile in Brisbane, Queensland, highlighting the shortcomings of existing government regulations and the voluntary Tyre Stewardship Australia Scheme in preventing potentially hazardous stockpiles.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the stockpile was an example of how public confidence in recycling schemes and payment of waste levies could be undermined.

“It’s imperative that we see effective government enforcement of existing regulations and standards to ensure best practice across the waste and recycling sector.

“Operators that are not doing the right thing need to be shut down,” Ms Read said.

“Only those certified under the Australian Tyre Recycling Association accreditation program should be allowed to operate.

“With regard to cleaning up the stockpile, if the tyre industry through their voluntary product stewardship scheme can’t prevent these stockpiles, they should as a minimum contribute to the cost to clean it up.  What is Tyre Stewardship Australia’s role here?

“While the state government should not have allowed these stockpiles to occur, it is the manufacturers who should be footing the bill for cleaning up. That is what best practice product stewardship is about.