Review of waste-product stewardship regulation – two years late

Published on Thu 9 July 2020 1:18pm

Labor welcomes the findings of the review into the Product Stewardship Act (PSA) which is two years late and shows there is much to be done and no time to waste.

As waste export bans are introduced as new instalments in the unfolding waste crisis it is a shame the Morrison Government has taken three years and three different environment ministers to complete this review, which has inevitably delayed action. In essence the PSA review makes recommendations that the industry has identified for some time.
While the government’s response suggests that problematic waste producers will be put ‘on the clock’ to take voluntary action before additional co-regulatory schemes are implemented, the details of this staged and timetabled approach will be crucial. There is an irony of course in the Morrison government seeking to schedule further action when it has been a chronic foot-dragger in taking action itself.
Introduced by the Gillard Government in 2011, the Product Stewardship Act was a major step forward in developing a regulatory framework to ensure responsible waste management in partnership with industry. It created a structure through which the producers of difficult waste products would take responsibility for their ‘life cycle’, including the recycling and proper disposal of resources and waste. The legislation acknowledged that manufacturers, sellers, and consumers all have a role to play in reducing the environmental impacts of waste creation, and in moving towards a circular economy that values the resources that exist for re-use in most goods.
We are glad to note this review confirms the fundamental value of Labor’s policy, particularly in relation to the National Television & Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS). But further improvements to compliance and outcomes under the NTCRS are both necessary and welcome.
Labor will consider the report and consult with stakeholders before coming to a final position on these changes. We will of course support sensible legislative changes that provide meaningful regulatory improvements to waste management and resource recovery through product stewardship.
Since coming to office seven years ago the Liberals and Nationals have not added any products to the co-regulatory or mandatory stewardship list. This government has been slow to act and failed to deliver certainty for industry, jobs and Australia’s environment.
The PSA review has made it clear that significant free-rider issues exist and that without an expansion of co-regulatory mechanisms there may be little improvement in current outcomes. There should be no further delay in providing certainty to Australia’s resource recovery sector and in providing support for Australia’s nascent re-manufacturing operators and innovators.

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