The Australian Parliament has passed the Product Stewardship Bill, the legislation that provides the framework to effectively manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products, and in particular the impacts associated with disposal. The first scheme to be established under the legislation will be to collect and recycle televisions and computers at the end of their product life. The scheme is expected to be phased in from the end of 2011.
Product stewardship is based on the principle of shared public and private responsibility for reducing the environmental impact of manufactured goods. The passage of the Bill completes a commitment by the Australian Government under the National Waste Policy which was agreed in November 2009. Both the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and Product Stewardship Australia (PSA), the environmental body representing TV manufacturers, have welcomed the Bill.
The National Television and Computer Product Stewardship Scheme will be the first one off the blocks and the basis for most e-waste management in Australia. Under the proposals importers or manufacturers will be required to help fund a product stewardship organisation (PSO) to organise the collection and recycling of televisions and computers, or implement at least as good a scheme themselves. All users need to do is ensure that their old televisions and computers are left at a designated collection point. Regulations to underpin this scheme are expected to be finalised in the second half of 2011.
A number of major IT manufacturers already have their own product take-back schemes in place in Australia, so the national program should have limited impact on their costs, and hence product prices. But the volume implications of the scheme will certainly be an incentive for manufacturers to make product recycling more efficient by using more environmentally-friendly materials, better design for recycling and more efficient recycling processes to reclaim materials.