The Global Product Stewardship Council periodically invites thought leaders on product stewardship and producer responsibility to contribute guest blogs. Our guest blogger for this post is John Gertsakis, Chief Sustainability Officer for Infoactiv. John is also a member of the GlobalPSC Advisory Group.
Clear and logical support grows for increased recycling targets under Australia’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).
Australia’s electronics recycling scheme is currently subject to an Operational Review by the Australian Government, and many stakeholders, including the Waste Management Association of Australia, are expecting the recycling targets to be sharply increased.
Anything other than a significant increase will continue to exacerbate stockpile creation, questionable recycling practices, and the appalling situation of Co-regulatory Arrangements (industry programs) terminating or minimising collection and recycling services to local councils across urban and regional Australia.
The NTCRS has achieved significant collection and recycling outcomes in a product category that was in urgent need of industry-wide Product Stewardship attention and industry support. The Product Stewardship Act and the subordinate regulations represent landmark policy reform aimed at applying the principles of Extended Producer Responsibility to unwanted, obsolete and end-of-life electronics. Infoactiv remains very supportive of the NTCRS and its achievements to date.
The majority of participating stakeholders wish to see the NTCRS expand and thrive as it continues to deliver measurable environmental, social and economic benefits. However the continuation of ‘easy-to reach’ recycling targets does nothing to demonstrate genuine CSR goals, nor do low targets address the vast volume of television and computer waste that continues to flood into landfills in all States and Territories.
We receive several calls each week from frustrated local councils that have had their collection and recycling service withdrawn by industry Arrangements under the NTCRS. And ‘frustrated’ is the polite translation of how they express their views. These are not isolated instances but a steady stream of municipalities who are now having to bear the cost burden of industry not recycling the very products that they produce and place on the market.
Most importantly, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment is perfectly placed to significantly increase the enforceable targets under the NTCRS and swiftly deal with several issues that require prompt and decisive attention.
Low-level target increases will continue to aggravate key issues at a time when the scheme needs proactive adjustment by the Australian Government. More information about the Government’s Operational Review that is currently underway can be found here.
Ongoing research and data collection by Planet Ark underscores the importance of the NTCRS given the number of public enquiries received every week wanting information about where and how to recycle unwanted televisions, computers and IT peripherals. Consumers, householders, small business and the wider public have clear expectations that manufacturers and brands in particular must play a greater role in managing the total product life cycle of their product beyond the point of sale and warranties. This merely reflects current activity in many other OECD countries.
In summary, Infoactiv believes that the NTCRS is a fundamentally sound and innovative scheme that addresses a significant and growing resource recovery imperative related to the consumption and disposal of television and IT equipment. The Department of the Environment is to be commended for its efforts in successfully launching and administering the NTCRS since inception in 2011.
Additional detail about our 10 point plan to adjust and improve the NTCRS can be found here.
We also recognise that any new, nationwide initiative such as the NTCRS will experience establishment phase glitches and minor hurdles, which only serve to inform the scheme’s long-term performance and success.
The Environment Minister’s option is very clear; sharply increase the enforceable collection targets, and do it swiftly. This will not only meet community expectation, it will also address the genuine needs of local councils nationwide, especially those that have been ignore by industry.
Most importantly, and often overlooked, is the unequivocal fact that a target increase under the NTCRS will further maximise resource recovery levels and better manage hazardous substances that are otherwise ending up in Australian landfills.
Losing such scarce and non-renewable resources at a time when the solution is available, obvious and uncomplicated would reflect poorly on the necessary policy reforms that are urgently required.
As always, greater public discussion about the NTCRS and how to achieve positive outcomes is welcome and encouraged.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Product Stewardship Council.
John Gertsakis is a sustainability practitioner with over 20 years experience as an industry adviser, consultant and research academic. He works on a range of issues including Product Stewardship for electronics and EPR strategy, regulatory analysis, government relations and environmental communications. Through his current position as Chief Sustainability Officer with Infoactiv, John’s work is focused on strategic business development and the design of new stewardship solutions for manufactured durables.
John served as Executive Director of Product Stewardship Australia from 2006 – 2011, representing global consumer electronics brands and OEMs. He was deeply involved as a key advocate of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 and sat on the Implementation Working Group for the NTCRS. He authored Australia’s first report on e-waste product stewardship in 1995 titled: Short Circuiting Waste from Electronic Products. He was also the co-author and editor of Return to Sender: An Introduction to Extended Producer Responsibility (1997). John is also Vice President of the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative, and an Honorary Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia.