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Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020

Section 68 of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 required an annual report on the operation of the Act. On 16 December 2020 the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (RAWR Act) came into effect, repealing and replacing the Product Stewardship Act. Section 184 of the RAWR Act requires an annual report on the operation of the Act.

Section 17 of the Recycling and Waste Reduction (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2020 requires the annual report under the RAWR Act for 2020–21 to include the report on the operation of the Product Stewardship Act and regulations for the year.

This section provides the reports for both Acts in relation to product stewardship.

Product stewardship

The RAWR Act provides a new framework for managing Australia’s recycling and waste reduction objectives. A key objective of the Act is to encourage the development of a circular economy, including through product stewardship arrangements, that maximises the continued use of products and waste materials over their life cycle.

The RAWR Act provides for 3 levels of product stewardship: voluntary, co-regulatory and mandatory.

Voluntary product stewardship

Voluntary product stewardship encourages industry to lead the development of product stewardship arrangements that manage products and their waste in an environmentally sound manner. Improved product design, more efficient manufacturing processes, easier consumer waste disposal options and improved recycling capacities all contribute to industry-led arrangements that contribute to Australia’s recycling and waste reduction objectives.

Government accreditation provides consumers and industry with confidence that the voluntary product stewardship arrangements will contribute to Australia’s waste management objectives. Our Australian Government product stewardship logo indicates that a product is accredited and contributes to a circular economy.

The MobileMuster arrangement continues to be accredited for the collection and recycling of used mobile phones and accessories.

In 2020–21 the following industry-led product stewardship arrangements were accredited under the RAWR Act:

  • Tyre Stewardship Scheme, which manages Australia’s waste tyres and develops new markets for tyre-derived products.
  • Big Bag Recovery, which aims to ensure that plastic bags for industrial products over 15 kilograms or 15 litres are recycled into other plastic products.
  • Battery Stewardship Scheme, which is a national battery collection network that will increase the recovery and recycling of end-of-life handheld batteries.

We partnered with the University of Technology Sydney, the Australian Industry Group and Cox Inall to establish the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence. The Australian Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund has funded 20 voluntary product stewardship projects through grants totalling $14.5 million.

Co-regulatory product stewardship

Part 3 of the RAWR Act provides for co-regulatory product stewardship. The only co-regulatory scheme is the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme. This was set up by the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulations 2011.

The scheme sets industry-funded annual recycling targets for end-of-life televisions and computer products. Importers and manufacturers fund collection and recycling through membership fees paid through industry-run co-regulatory arrangements. In 2020–21 the approved co-regulatory arrangements were administered by:

  • Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform Limited
  • E-Cycle Solutions Pty Ltd
  • Electronic Product Stewardship Australasia Pty Limited
  • MRI PSO Pty Ltd.

On 15 April 2021 the co-regulatory arrangement administered by MRI PSO Pty Ltd was cancelled under section 87 of the RAWR Act.

The administrators must ensure the arrangements achieve the outcomes specified in the Act and the regulations. These outcomes include:

  • providing electronic waste collection services to communities in metropolitan, regional and remote areas of Australia
  • meeting annual recycling targets
  • ensuring at least 90% of the materials derived from recycling electronic waste are available for reuse in manufacturing new products.

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme has recycled more than 425,000 tonnes of e-waste since its commencement.

Regulatory (mandatory) product stewardship

Part 4 of the RAWR Act provides for mandatory product stewardship, where both requirements and outcomes are prescribed in regulations.

There are no schemes under these provisions of the RAWR Act.

Minister’s Priority List

The Minister for the Environment identifies products and materials considered to be most in need of product stewardship action. The minister's product stewardship priority list, also known as the Minister’s Priority List, specifies products, the reasons for listing, recommended actions and time frames for action by industry.

The Minister’s Priority List provides certainty and transparency to the community and industry about what is being considered for regulation under the RAWR Act.

The Minister’s Priority List is reviewed every 12 months, in consultation with a range of stakeholders, including the states and territories and the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence. If industry has taken action to implement a product stewardship arrangement or address product waste through other measures a product can be removed. If insufficient action is taken to respond to a product listing the minister may pursue regulatory measures.

The 2020–21 list included batteries, child car seats, electrical and electronic products, plastic oil containers, plastic microbeads, and solar photovoltaic systems.

During the year industry supply chains took action to phase out plastic microbeads and to establish the Battery Stewardship Scheme.

Waste exports

The RAWR Act provides the legislative framework to implement the agreement of all Australian governments to ban the export of waste glass, plastic, tyres and paper. The waste export ban will:

  • stop the export of unsorted and unprocessed waste that is likely to have a negative impact on human or environmental health in the receiving country
  • improve the long-term sustainability of Australia’s recycling industry by building capacity to generate and use high value recycled commodities
  • maximise the ability of the Australian waste management and recycling sector to collect, recover, recycle, reuse and convert waste plastic into new products.

The waste export ban is implemented through a licensing and declaration scheme, as set out in the rules associated with the RAWR Act.

Glass Rules

The Recycling and Waste Reduction (Export—Waste Glass) Rules 2020 (Glass Rules) commenced on 1 January 2021. The Glass Rules require exporters of waste glass to hold an export licence and declare each export consignment of waste glass prior to export.

Exporters need to meet the requirements of the RAWR Act and the Glass Rules to be eligible for an export licence for glass waste. Export licences are subject to specific conditions, including conditions about processing waste glass to an appropriate specification.

In 2020–21 the minister granted 6 licences to export waste glass.

Plastic Rules

The Recycling and Waste Reduction (Export—Waste Plastic) Rules 2021 (Plastic Rules) were made on 24 May 2021. The rules commence on 1 July 2021.

The Plastic Rules require exporters of waste plastic to hold an export licence and declare each export consignment of waste plastic prior to export. Export licences will be subject to specific conditions which will commence in 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: will only allow export of waste plastics sorted into single resin or polymer type from 1 July 2021.
  • Phase 2: in addition to Phase 1, will only allow export of waste plastic that is further processed, for example flaked or pelletised, from 1 July 2022.

The Plastic Rules also regulate the export of processed engineered fuel. It will be a condition of an export licence that the fuel is processed to an appropriate specification prior to export.

Other rules

During the year we progressed rules to implement the waste export ban on tyres and paper. These are due to commence on 1 December 2021 (tyres) and 1 July 2024 (paper).