Last week I wrote in my post, How Disability Has Impacted My Zero Waste Lifestyle, that my experience highlights the need for governments, manufacturers and businesses to step up and find better solutions to address waste issues, and that we need to continue to put pressure on these groups to completely rethink their approach to designing, producing, and packaging products by writing letters, signing petitions, educating those around us, and making submissions during community consultation periods.
Well, we currently have a great opportunity to do this because the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Australia) is up for review.
The Product Stewardship Act 2011 provides the framework to effectively manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products, and in particular those impacts associated with the disposal of products and their associated waste.
The Act is required to be reviewed five years after commencement to ensure it is effective and delivering the best outcomes for business and the environment, and this is the first review. The Department of the Environment and Energy is responsible for the review and consultation process, for which submissions are due by 29th June 2018.
What can we influence through the Product Stewardship Review?
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 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.
What does that mean?
This means we can demand product stewardship and end frustrating practices like planned obsolescence through:
- ensuring products must be durable, easy to upgrade and easy to repair
- reducing or eliminating waste from products and ensuring that everything is reused, recycled, recovered, treated and disposed of in a safe, scientific and environmentally sound way – with national standards
- banning certain substances or materials from use in products, like microbeads and polystyrene
- requiring a deposit and refund to be applied to a product (Container Deposit Scheme)
- ensuring that the recycling symbol can only be used on products that can be recycled in Australia and using a national labelling system that shows how much of the product can be recycled
- strengthening the Australian Packaging Covenant
There are many more possibilities, and I’m sure you have your own bugbears regarding the wasteful use of the earth’s resources.
What can you do?
Make a submission
As community input can make a big difference on these occasions, I encourage you to make a formal submission yourself with your own thoughts and experiences. Do that here. The NGO, Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA), has a guide to help you do this on their webpage at earthlaws.org.au/psa
Alternatively, you can check out the recommendations which AELA is putting forth and make a submission in support of their ideas to reduce waste. AELA’s proposed changes to the Act would strengthen the requirements placed on manufacturers and importers in Australia, and give consumers a stronger legal foundation for taking action under the Australian Consumer Law when products break or are unable to be repaired.
Sign and share a petition
If you don’t have time to create your own submission, sign AELA’s petition to show you support their recommendations for stronger laws, and they will lodge the petition with their submission to the PSA Review. Please share this petition far and wide.
Write to your local Council
Kirsty Bishop-Fox from Sustainable Pathways drafted a letter to be sent to Councils to ensure they are responding to the PSA review. Councils have a lot to gain – financially and environmentally from proper waste management, and this has flow on effects to rate payers, so one would hope they are making useful submissions.
I have sent this email to all six of the Gippsland Councils. You can send it to your local council too if you like (all around Australia). Try targeting the CEO, waste management staff and Councillors.
Kirsty is tracking the councils contacted and their responses, so let her know which council you’ve sent it to and if you get a response (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I am writing to ask if our Council is preparing a submission for the Federal Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011.
This provides the framework to effectively manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of products, and in particular those impacts associated with the disposal of products. There are a number of schemes in place under the Product Stewardship Act. To date these schemes have been largely voluntary and have failed to be as successful as they could be. Mandatory product stewardship on a number of products would greatly increase council’s ability to decrease landfill waste and potentially decrease costs of waste removal, which could pass on savings to council and / or rate payers.
Submissions are open until the 29th June 2018.
It would be great if you could provide me with some feedback on our council’s position with this.
Other actions you can take
In addition to contributing to the Review of the Act, the Australia Earth Laws Alliance has suggested doing these things to reduce the impact of planned obsolescence:
- resist the temptation to upgrade perfectly working products;
- consider the hierarchy of actions below:
- refuse products you don’t need;
- reduce the amount of products you buy:
- repair your products where it is safe and possible to do so; and finally
- recycle or upcycle products where possible.
Please help make a difference, we won’t get this chance again for another five years.