By Russ Martin, Global Product Stewardship Council President
Russ blogs regularly on product stewardship for the Business Environment Network (BEN). This blog originally appeared on BEN and has been reposted with permission of BEN publishers.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) and product stewardship have long had as a fundamental purpose the shifting of physical and financial responsibility for products away from local waste management and recycling programs back to producers and consumers.
Some of our colleagues in the U.S., the Product Stewardship Institute, have estimated the potential benefits to local programs of producer responsibility at over U.S. $2 billion. These benefits include actual costs, which would be the direct financial savings to a local government of implementing an EPR program and service benefits, which is the value of the added benefits a municipality would receive if EPR were to take hold. For example, many local governments in the U.S. dry and dispose of latex paint because it is a lower priority than other household hazardous waste products. If they had the money, they would collect it for recycling.
So if benefits are supposed to accrue mainly to local programs, how might local governments miss out on EPR and product stewardship? Simply by not understanding product stewardship, how it’s intended to work or how to make the most of it. Or, they could fail to engage effectively with other stakeholders.
First, some basics. Most consumers want products to be responsibly managed when they reach end-of-life. More product stewardship schemes across a broader range of items are likely.
Businesses will want to leverage existing resources, including local government collections and infrastructure, rather than start new programs completely from scratch. Local governments that engage industry can reduce their infrastructure and consumer education costs. Transparency and accountability of services provided will be an important issue.
Recent discussions with a variety of local government officials have shown that many still don’t seem to understand some of these basics. The idea is not to get grants from the government for collecting additional products. Nor to invite product stewardship organisations to tender for collection / recycling contracts of particular products. Rather it’s about councils forming partnerships with product stewardship organisations to provide certain services. Strong standards will be necessary, and these will affect expectations and costs for all stakeholders. Collections should be free to consumers, and in some cases this may be regulated as in the new national TV and computer recycling scheme (NB: in Australia).
In addition, the targets for the TV and computer scheme will not necessarily match up to likely volumes of materials available for collection. The first annual recycling target is 30 per cent in 2012–13, increasing progressively each year to reach 80 per cent in 2021–22.
However, we can expect a great deal of collections initially, especially with the digital switchover and a backlog of end-of-life TVs and computers spread across Australia. Then the pendulum is likely to swing back the other way before eventually stabilising in say 5-6 years. As the targets start to really kick in, industry will then be scouring for TVs and computers in order to meet their targets. The characteristics of the products in and materials out of the scheme will vary significantly during this time, which will further complicate planning, implementation and basic commercial viability.
Liable parties under the scheme are paying co-regulatory arrangements to meet their target obligations in a cost-effective way. Once the arrangements meet their liable parties’ targets, recycling above and beyond that point simply represents a cost for which funding from liable parties cannot readily be sought. Yet the scheme’s first collections in the ACT exceeded the arrangement’s annual target for that region in one month.
Public interest and engagement cannot readily be turned on and off like a tap. Industry and local governments will need to collaborate with State and Commonwealth governments on how best to manage consumer expectations while delivering meaningful outcomes.
Consistency and reliability of service to customers is important. Yet, existing co-regulatory arrangements already diverge on whether they will cover the costs for collecting and processing TVs and computers beyond their target volumes. Councils will not be able to charge consumers for TV and computer recycling, then return those products through an approved arrangement.
This means that the cost for any excess collections beyond target volumes would need to be covered by councils, state or federal governments to maintain free collections to the consumer and avoid discouraging an engaged public. This is a transitional, yet very important, issue that will need to be managed carefully as we move towards fuller industry funding of programs.
So, if you’re a local government, how do you go about making the most of product stewardship?
First, know where you stand. What items have the greatest impacts (in terms of toxicity/hazard, volumes and public concern)? What are your costs for managing end-of-life products responsibly (including education, collections, recycling, disposal of residuals, externality costs, insurance and illegal dumping clean-up costs)?
Second, know where others stand and understand their needs. What programs are already in existence? What programs are planned or could potentially be implemented?
Third, actively engage with industries, state governments and other stakeholders. Seek agreement on program details and funding for issues such as collection types, frequency and accessibility for consumers; how best to promote returns and manage community expectations; how to address material quality/contamination; education; risks, roles and responsibilities; cost allocation (and neutrality?); auditing/verification and public reporting.
The local governments that understand these factors are in a much stronger position to truly benefit from product stewardship, especially if product stewardship expands to other items such as paints, pharmaceuticals and other e-waste beyond what we’re already seeing.
British Columbia, Canada Brings in First Complete Waste Electrical & Electronics Extended Producer Responsibility Program in North America
If it comes with a battery or a plug British Columbia now recycles it. As of July 1, 2012, BC has expanded its extended producer responsibility (EPR) recycling programs to collect and safely deal with the largest variety of waste electrical & electronic equipment (WEEE) of any other jurisdiction in North America. For the first time in North America, all end-of-life electronic and electrical products can now be recycled.
As the demands of recycling have increased, so have the number of industry-led stewardship agencies in response to the BC Recycling Regulation. The Recycling Regulation shifts taxpayer funded responsibility for managing end-of-life products and packaging to producers and consumers.
In 2009, the Electronics and Electrical Category defined under the BC Recycling Regulation was amended to phase in an expanded list of products to fall under EPR programs, culminating in the July 1, 2012 compliance date.
In the case of WEEE, several collection channels were cooperatively developed. The use of existing Encorp Pacific (Canada) Return-It™ depots by the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA) began in 2007. Encorp was contracted to manage EPRA’s operations under the Return-It™ Electronics label. Independently owned depots are situated throughout BC allowing consumers and businesses easy access. Businesses with large volume of used products can utilize the free of charge direct pick-up services. EPRA also works with businesses that collect end-of-life electronic products from vendors like the BC Lottery Corporation who collects and arranges the recycling of old video gaming machines.
The WEEE programs started out recycling computers, televisions, key boards and printers and now collect: all batteries, cell phones, thermostats, fluorescent lamps, lighting equipment, smoke detectors, small and large appliances, electrical and electronic tools, medical devices, automatic dispensers, toys, musical instruments, leisure and sports equipment, monitoring and control instruments, IT and telecommunications equipment and accessories for use with any e-waste products.
Detailed analysis and results, as provided by Global Product Stewardship Council Corporate Members Encorp Pacific (Canada) Vice President, Development & CMO Sandy Sigmond, has been made available on the Knowledge Base available to GlobalPSC members.
The Global Product Stewardship Council is pleased to have a diverse range of businesses, governments and NGOs among our members. Check out recent profiles on the following GlobalPSC members:
- Product Stewardship Institute
- Martin Stewardship & Management Strategies (MS2)
- Australian Packaging Covenant
- Panasonic Australia
- British Columbia Ministry of Environment
Current members that wish to create a new profile or update their existing profile should contact the GlobalPSC at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on making the most of GlobalPSC membership is also available here.
Call2Recycle is the only no cost rechargeable battery and cellphone collection program in North America. Since 1996, Call2Recycle has diverted over 100 million pounds (45 million kilograms) of batteries from the solid waste stream and established a network of 30,000 collection sites throughout the U.S. and Canada. Advancing green business practices and environmental sustainability, Call2Recycle is the most active voice promoting eco-safe reclamation and recycling of rechargeable batteries and cellphones. It is the first program of its kind to receive the Responsible Recycling Practices Standard (R2) certification, as well as e-Steward recognition from the Basel Action Network (BAN). Founded in 1994, Call2Recycle is operated by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), a non-profit organization funded by product manufacturers across the globe committed to environmentally-sound recycling of rechargeable batteries and cellphones. These manufacturers place the RBRC recycling seal on their rechargeable products and batteries, informing users that they are recyclable.
CEO and President Carl Smith serves as Treasurer of the GlobalPSC.
The Global Product Stewardship Council has developed an overview on making the most of GlobalPSC membership that addresses communications, events and member services. The overview is available here.
The theme of this years’ WasteMINZ Conference is Challenge, Change and Collaboration. It is about recognising the many challenges our industry faces in these times of significant fiscal and resource constraint and ensuring we plan smartly for the inevitable societal, legislative and policy changes ahead. We want to actively explore how government, the private sector and communities can work collaboratively to address these issues.
As always, the Conference will provide opportunities for all those working in the waste and resource recovery sector to showcase and share their achievements. There is an exciting line-up of keynote speakers, both for plenary sessions and technical sessions, plus there are workshops and special interest sessions to choose from.
The Conference Programme is available here.
The Global Product Stewardship Council is a Bronze Sponsor of the Conference and partnering with WasteMINZ to help address product stewardship. GlobalPSC President Russ Martin will be presenting the GlobalPSC’s international perspective on e-waste and chairing a session on product stewardship. Be sure to catch up with us around the sessions or stop by the GlobalPSC stand at site 21.
Perchards monitors and analyses legislative developments on packaging, e-waste and spent batteries worldwide, and helps companies with compliance. Perchards has advised more than 350 clients in 36 countries, and its web-based information service is used by subscribers from all over the world.
Perchards publishes comprehensive and regularly updated reports on legislation and policy in 40 European countries and at EU level, and has also published surveys of packaging legislation and policy in the Canadian provinces, US states and in 15 African countries. It also offers clients a tailored service providing monitoring and information, policy analysis and advice on strategic development.
Perchards has carried out studies for the European Commission, the World Bank group, the Commonwealth of Australia, the EPA of one Australian state, the Czech Environment Ministry, the Irish EPA, the Slovak Environment Ministry and for two government departments in the UK.
They include a major report for the Commission on the implementation of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and its impact on the functioning of the European Internal Market. From 2001 to 2007 Perchards also took part in a series of Commission seminars in EU candidate countries, explaining aspects of implementation of the Directive, the lessons learned by existing member states and the pitfalls to be avoided.
Perchards has given evidence to a Knesset committee in Israel and helped to prepare South Africa’s Packaging and Paper Industry Waste Management Plan for submission to the government. Consultants from Perchards regularly speak at conferences all over the world, and in 2011 outlined European experience of extended producer responsibility (EPR) at a US state legislators’ forum.
Managing Director David Perchard has written several papers on packaging eco-design, and from 1998 to 2006 was Packaging Consultant to CEN, the European Standards Committee, while the European standards on packaging and the environment were being developed. David also serves as GlobalPSC Vice-President.
We are pleased to announce the latest Corporate Member of the Global Product Stewardship Council, Plasback.
Tapex are a Sydney-based plastics manufacturer and a major supplier of fodder conservation plastic to the rural sector in Australia and New Zealand.
Tapex are committed to successfully manage for a better environment, add business value through sustainable practices and to accepting producer responsibility for their products even after they leave Tapex’s premises.
In 2006, Tapex (through its subsidiary Agpac) launched a voluntary product stewardship program for silage wrap in New Zealand. The scheme now collects over 1000 tonnes a year of plastics for reprocessing.
In 2010 Tapex launched the Plasback product stewardship program in Australia and the New Zealand program was rebranded Plasback.
In April 2010 Plasback became the first government accredited rural product stewardship scheme in New Zealand.
Plasback in both countries collects and recycles a range of farm plastics, not just their own but all brands. They can achieve this through the support of government, industry and the rural community.
Tapex are a participant in the NSW government Sustainability Advantage program and the PACIA (Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association) Sustainability Leadership Framework.
The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is a national, membership-based nonprofit committed to reducing the health, safety, and environmental impacts of consumer products across their lifecycle—with a strong focus on sustainable end-of-life management. With experience in nearly 20 product categories, PSI brings together stakeholders with varying interests to develop product stewardship solutions in a collaborative manner, facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues, encouraging product design changes, and advocating for producer responsibility.
PSI has 47 state environmental agency members and hundreds of local government members, along with over 100 corporate, business, academic, non-U.S. government, and organizational partners. Together, they achieve their product stewardship goals by designing, implementing, evaluating, strengthening, and promoting both legislative and voluntary product stewardship initiatives across North America.
PSI strives to achieve the following financial, social, and environmental goals with every initiative it undertakes:
- Minimize waste management costs, particularly for taxpayers and government agencies;
- Create recycling and waste management jobs in safe, fair trade conditions; and
- Reduce waste, increase product reuse, and boost recycling rates while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and the use of toxic chemicals.
Martin Stewardship & Management Strategies Pty Ltd (MS2) is a Foundation Member of the Global Product Stewardship Council.
MS2 advises businesses and governments on development and integration of product stewardship and sustainability approaches through robust analysis, pragmatic strategies, business case development, stakeholder engagement and communications.
Specialist expertise includes:
- Product stewardship
- Regulatory affairs
- Sustainability strategies and reporting
The company was founded by Russ Martin in 2004. Russ is a Certified Environmental Practitioner with over 25 years experience in public policy development and sustainability in the US, Australia and Middle East. This includes roles in government and as an advisor to governments and industry. Russ is Chief Executive Officer of the GlobalPSC and has led the GlobalPSC’s development across all aspects, from strategy and governance to event production and communications.