Product stewardship

Overview

Product stewardship is an approach to managing the impacts of different products and materials. It acknowledges that those involved in producing, selling, using and disposing of products have a shared responsibility to ensure that those products or materials are managed in a way that reduces their impact, throughout their lifecycle, on the environment and on human health and safety. Below are some examples of product stewardship schemes in Australia: 

Treated timber 

The peak industry group, the Timber Development Association (TDA), has established the National Timber Product Stewardship Group, an industry/government steering group set up to identify and facilitate product stewardship initiatives in the industry. In 2007, TDA released a product stewardship strategy, “Timber-More Life”, which set a national target to double the recovery rate of wood waste by 2017.

Packaging 

The Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) has been the principal national instrument to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer packaging in Australia since 1999. The Covenant is underpinned by the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM) and requires companies to minimise packaging waste and come up with ways to design more sustainable packaging.

Packaging and subsets such as consumer and beverage packaging appeared on the 2013-14 and 2014-15 product lists. In 2012, environment ministers commenced a Packaging Impacts Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) process to look at options for beverage containers, packaging waste and litter more broadly. In 2014, the RIS recommended that the APC continue in the absence of any new national approach on packaging. Consequently, packaging was not included on subsequent lists.

Photovoltaic systems 

Photovoltaic systems are becoming increasingly common as the community adopts solar energy technology. The volume of photovoltaic system equipment reaching end-of-life is expected to will grow exponentially over coming years.

This class of product encompasses photovoltaic panels, inverter equipment and system accessories, for domestic, commercial and industrial applications.

Components of photovoltaic systems may contain hazardous substances. Photovoltaic systems also contain many recoverable materials of value, however most material currently is disposed of in landfill. The complexity of these systems creates challenges for the full recovery of valuable materials.Photovoltaic systems are sold in a national market and their disposal at end-of-life involves a cost to governments. There is potential to increase the recovery of valuable resources through improved collection and recycling pathways, while also reducing the impacts of hazardous materials on the environment and human health through diverting materials from landfill. Work on a scheme for photovoltaic systems is being led by the Victoria Government with the support of the Australian and other state and territory governments, industry and other stakeholders.