On Tuesday, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett released
a consultation paper regarding A National Waste Policy:
Managing Waste to 2020 for public review and comment. This is
Australia's first national waste policy since 1992.
The goal of the national waste policy will be to identify best
practice in waste management and resource recovery and to ensure
that Australia has the right mix of incentives and regulation to
achieve environmental, economic and community benefits from these
activities, including to:
clearly articulate the objectives of waste management and the
respective roles of governments
set out the basis for collaboration between jurisdictions
provide the basis for effective and efficient approaches to
domestic waste issues
ensure that waste management remains aligned with
Australia's international obligations, including the Basel
Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous
complement the Australian Government's approach to climate
change and sustainability.
The national waste policy will take into account the National
Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy which
aims to "deliver more consistent regulation across
jurisdictions, and address unnecessary or poorly designed
regulation". The Consultation Paper recognises the diversity
of approaches to waste management across Australia and raises the
question of whether a more "seamless" approach can be
achieved for certain aspects of waste nationally, while still
providing for local differences.
The Environment Protection and Heritage Council has developed a
national waste framework as the basis for collaborative action on
issues of national priority including electrical products
(televisions, computers and mobile phones), hazardous substances,
tyres, degradable plastics, and packaging. These areas and others
are explored in the context of a national waste policy in the
Product stewardship or producer responsibility is a concept that
recognises that manufacturers, importers, governments and consumers
have a shared responsibility for the environmental impacts of a
product throughout its life cycle. In Canada, New Zealand, Japan
and some parts of the US and EU the producer responsibility
approach, which makes manufacturers/producers bear the cost of the
waste associated with their products, is widespread. The approach
is much more limited in Australia. The Consultation Paper seeks
submissions on a national approach to product stewardship and
suggests a National Environmental Protection Measure as one way to
implement such an approach.
The Consultation Paper notes there is concern over the practice
of landfilling electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), perhaps
because such waste contains hazardous substances, but also because
of the relatively short life of the products. E-waste streams are
growing rapidly and there are currently limited options
particularly for domestic e-waste recycling of items such as
televisions and computers. The Consultation Paper seeks submissions
on a national approach to managing e-waste.
Restriction on Hazardous Substances
The Consultation Paper states that Australia needs to safely
manage hazardous waste over the long term. It notes that there are
some seeming inconsistencies in the way hazardous waste is managed
in Australia particularly as regards what is seen as a hazardous
waste under the Basel Convention and what is seen as hazardous
From 1 July 2006, the EU's Restriction of Hazardous
Substances Directive placed a ban on the marketing of electrical
and electronic products containing more than agreed levels of
hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent
chromium. A number of Australian businesses already produce
products that meet the requirements of the directive in order to
export to European markets, but businesses importing materials into
Australia are not required to meet the directive. The Consultation
Paper asks whether overseas waste management initiatives should
apply to Australia and what changes are needed to manage hazardous
waste, for example, in regard to adequate infrastructure or
disclosing the contents of goods and substances.
Implications for Industry
The Consultation Paper raises a number of questions and
summarises current state and national waste initiatives but does
not appear to push any particular policy agenda. It provides
companies with an opportunity to make persuasive submissions to the
Government in regard to their particular waste and producer
Submissions close on 13 May 2009. Public
meetings are scheduled around Australia from 21 April to 1
May 2009. Further details are here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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