Government to propose changes to e-waste scheme this month

Government to propose changes to e-waste scheme this month

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) is set to release the next e-waste product stewardship discussion paper later this month.

This paper will propose major changes to the policies and regulations that govern e-waste recycling in Australia – particularly the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS).

These changes will add additional categories of e-waste, more than doubling the amount of e-waste covered by the program, and making many more companies  liable for the recycling of their products. This will have a substantial impact on our members and the wider e-waste ecosystem.

ANZRP welcomes the work that the DCCEEW is doing to review and improve the e-waste recycling system. With the right changes, we can better tackle the growing volumes of e-waste in our system.

Reviewing the NTCRS – what’s happening

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (RAWR Act) that governs the NTCRS is being reviewed. Between October 2022 and April 2023, four papers were progressively released for industry consultation on key areas of scheme design. ANZRP engaged government closely on these papers up until the end of the consultation period in April 2023. We have been pleased to have been able to collaborate effectively with government over this period, and hope to see this continue.

The upcoming public consultation paper will present a consolidated version of the proposed changes, reflecting industry’s input. This paper will be released later in June for public consultation over a five-week period before the Department enters into a more detailed design phase.

It is expected that an Exposure Draft will be released at the start of 2024, with new legislation to be enacted by 30 June 2024.

An opportunity to improve the e-waste recycling system – what ANZRP hopes to see

The review of the RAWR Act and the NTCRS presents a huge opportunity for government to improve the way Australia tackles e-waste and shore up some of the gaps in the current system.

As a long-term proponent of higher recycling standards, ANZRP hopes to see the new legislation raise the bar across the industry. At a minimum, the ISO 45001 (safety) and ISO 14001 (environment) standards should be incorporated as appropriate to ensure quality safety and environmental outcomes are achieved.

There is also an opportunity to promote higher levels of recycling performance by tackling compliance as a spectrum rather than a pass/fail. We hope to see a scheme that expects parties to meet a minimum bar, but also rewards those who go above and beyond, providing motivation to strive for higher performance. The scheme should also provide mechanisms to support the improvement of poor performers.

The changes should incorporate stronger oversight of the scheme, with more transparent and regular measurement and reporting of scheme performance from both government and co-regulators. This would also enable more timely administration of the scheme, and reduce the length and impacts of poor performance.

Improvements to the e-waste collection system are also required to ensure fair and equitable provision of collection services in metro, regional and remote locations.

With the expansion of the NTCRS looking to include households and SME e-waste collection, a large-scale public education initiative, as well as consumer resources, will need to be developed to elevate the profile of the scheme and its role in managing Australia’s e-waste. Co-regulators and recyclers should also play a role in public education, with a particular focus on proper recycling processes and safe data deletion.

Lastly, as the broader waste discussion continues to progress towards circularity, ANZRP hopes that the public consultation paper includes considerations beyond recycling. Looking upstream, it will be important to consider the design of products and the right to repair. And looking downstream, factoring in ways to ensure ethical and responsible recycling processes, and production from recovered material.

Taking an ambitious but informed approach

ANZRP has provided e-Stewardship services for over 11 years. Over this time, we have served global technology companies that are leaders in this field. Through the years, we have been strong advocates for higher standards, better quality and more transparency in e-waste recycling.

We support an ambitious approach to tackling e-waste, however one that is well-informed that takes into consideration all the risks to prevent unintended consequences.

The changes to the NTCRS should help upgrade the current system without backtracking on the significant progress that has been made in the last decade.

Provisions will also need to be made to help build capacity within the e-waste recycling sector to handle the higher volumes of waste and prevent build-up of e-waste in storage.

A positive outlook for e-Stewardship

ANZRP has been engaging closely with government on the upcoming changes and have welcomed the level of collaboration and openness during the process. It has given us confidence that the outlook for e-Stewardship in Australia is a positive one. We are hopeful that the next paper will continue this positive trend.

We encourage all our stakeholders to provide their input on the paper when it is made public later this month.