Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Product Stewardship Bill in Austrlaian Parliment

The "Product Stewardship Bill 2011" was introduced to the Australian Senate 23 March 2011. This allows for so called "co-regulatory" approach, where industry bodies run recycling schemes for e-waste (those companies which do not participate may be required to pay a fee). This timely as the switch-over to digital TV is resulting in many old analogue CRT TVs being replaced with flat screen LCD models. The NBN will also likely result in consumers upgrading their computer equipment with new networking equipment.

While there are many companies wo will do the right thing with e-waste, unfortunately as detailed in "International Waste Trafficking: Preliminary Explorations" (Klenovšek and Meško, 2011), there are those who will attempt to flout the law.
The Product Stewardship Bill 2011 (the Bill) establishes a national framework to enable Australia to more effectively manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products, and in particular those impacts associated with the disposal of products.

The Bill implements a commitment in the National Waste Policy: Less Waste, More Resources (November 2009) that:

the Australian Government, with the support of state and territory governments, will establish a national framework underpinned by legislation to support voluntary, co-regulatory and regulatory product stewardship and extended producer responsibility schemes to provide for the impacts of a product being responsibly managed during and at end of life.

The National Waste Policy has been endorsed by all Australian governments, through both the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (November 2009) and the Council of Australian Governments (August 2010).

... The Bill is a ‘framework’ bill in the sense that regulations will determine the products and persons that obligations apply to. This framework approach, which enables assessment of whether product stewardship requirements should be established for particular classes of products, has been endorsed by all Australian governments through the National Waste Policy. It avoids the need for product-specific legislation and promotes a consistent approach to matters such as reporting, compliance and enforcement.

Key provisions

Scope of obligations

The Bill will provide the basis for obligations to be imposed on manufacturers, importers, distributors and others to take action that relates to one or more of the following:

· avoiding generating waste from products;

· reducing or eliminating the amount of waste from products to be disposed of;

· reducing or eliminating hazardous substances in products and waste from products;

· managing waste from products as a resource;

· ensuring that products and waste from products is treated, disposed of, recovered, recycled and reused in a safe, scientific and environmentally sound way.

Circumstances in which obligations may be imposed

Obligations will only apply to classes of products identified in regulations under the co-regulatory or mandatory provisions of the Bill. Before a decision to make regulations is made, the Australian Government’s requirements for regulatory impact analysis will be met in accordance with the Best Practice Regulation Handbook. This will have regard to the following:

· the problem or issues that give rise to the need for action;

· the objectives of government action;

· the feasible alternative options to achieve these objectives;

· the costs and benefits of the alternative options; and

· the net benefit of each option for the community as a whole.

In addition to regulatory impact analysis requirements, the Minister will have to be satisfied that the regulations meet criteria identified in the Bill and further the objects of the Bill.

Voluntary provisions

The Bill provides the basis for accreditation of voluntary product stewardship arrangements. The purpose of voluntary accreditation is to provide an avenue for encouraging and recognising product stewardship without the need to regulate, and to provide assurance to the community that a voluntary product stewardship arrangement is operating to achieve the outcomes it has committed to achieve. Details of the accreditation process would be set out in a Ministerial determination.

Co-regulatory provisions

A co-regulatory approach involves a combination of government regulation and industry action. Government sets the minimum outcomes and operational requirements, while industry has flexibility as to how those outcomes and requirements are achieved. In practice, it is likely that the co-regulatory provisions of the Bill would be used where a substantial part of an industry wants to take action, but is concerned about the rest of the industry ‘free riding’ on their efforts. This is the case for the national computer and television recycling scheme, which would be supported by the co-regulatory provisions and associated regulations.

Mandatory provisions

Under the mandatory provisions, regulations may establish prescriptive product stewardship requirements and establish offences or civil penalties that apply if those requirements are not met. Regulations could, amongst other things, require specified actions to be taken with respect to the reuse, recycling, treatment or disposal of products or prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing hazardous substances....

Financial Impact Statement

... potential savings from national rather than state by state regulation of product stewardship. It indicated that if states and territories were to pursue their own approach then the cost to the economy would be between $212m and $414m above business as usual, while a national approach to product stewardship would have a net saving of $147 million. The RIS relating to national television and computer product stewardship indicated there would be a net benefit to the community from regulation. ...

From: "Product Stewardship Bill 2011", Explanatory Memorandum, Australian Senate, 23 March 2011 (Bill number C2011B00048).

No comments: