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The Vinyl Council of Australia (VCA) and its project partner, Specialised Textiles Association (STA) have secured Government grant funding of nearly $350,000 to further research into the recycling of waste PVC and polyester composite textile products in Australia.

Their TexBack project is one of only 15 successful grant applications (out of a total 190 submissions) and will receive $349,850 from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF). The Government’s funding program was launched to promote and stimulate shared action for everyday products with a focus on working to reduce waste generation and increased resource recovery.

‘TexBack’ is an industry-driven initiative which aims to steward polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-polyester (PES) composite textile products and waste which are currently not recovered in Australia.

The Morrison Government’s grant will fund the development of the business case for a national product stewardship scheme for textiles such as grain covers, tarpaulins, advertising banners, tents and marquees, roofing and grounds sheets, truck tarps, marine fabrics, swimming pool liners and upholstery fabrics. The project covers a range of activities, including testing of a new chemical separation technology, that will enable the specialised textiles and vinyl sectors to address the growing concerns of waste ending up in landfill.

The NPSIF has projected 1.5 million tonnes of waste to be diverted from landfill through the initiative and will further boost the economy by creating more than 560 potential jobs.

Developing a uniquely Australian solution will pave the way for the establishment of a new, industry-led product stewardship scheme that recovers a complex local waste stream, reprocesses it within Australia and supports the local manufacture of an innovative recycled content PVC building product being developed here, with export market potential. Local markets for recovered polyester will also be sought.

Welcoming the grant, the Vinyl Council of Australia’s PVC Stewardship Manager, Jan van de Graaff said: “TexBack will build on earlier VCA-led research into potential recycling options of PVC coated fabrics conducted over the past four years.

“This grant now gives VCA and STA a real opportunity to collaborate to engage the textile sector in developing a viable scheme for recovery and reprocessing of this waste stream, particularly as there is a potential end-use for the material that will lead to manufacturing of a completely new durable building product in Australia.”

Ana Drougas, Executive Office for the STA said “We are excited to be working with the VCA in an Australian first project to pilot the introduction of innovative and uniquely Australian world-leading PVC Separation technology. We acknowledge and commend the Commonwealth Government for elevating the status of product stewardship as a means of addressing environmental sustainability, growing jobs and the economy.”

In announcing the grant recipients, Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said: “We have made it clear that industry needs to take action for their waste. We are investing $10.5 million to seed 11 new and expand four existing industry-led initiatives that will make a practical environmental difference and it is great to see industry respond strongly to our call.”

“Our seed funding, along with the reforms in our Recycling Act, empowers industry and product experts to take more responsibility for their products,” said Hon Trevor Evans MP Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Assistant Minister.

“The grants were six-times oversubscribed which clearly shows the appetite in Australia for putting the power of recycling into the hands of businesses and consumers.”

For more information on the funded product stewardship schemes, visit: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/product-stewardship/national-product-stewardship-investment-fund

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 22:24

The value of product stewardship

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In the current business climate, the application of product stewardship has much to offer to individual businesses, industry collectives and governments seeking to drive sustainable economic growth.

This has been brought into a sharper focus in recent times due to the global economic downturn triggered by the covid-19 pandemic which has led many businesses and governments to recognize the level of economic dependence they have on offshore suppliers and markets, including for waste materials. This, coupled with the impact of the China National Sword policy, has the potential to stimulate new ways of thinking and smarter approaches to business and economic management and prosperity. One such approach, and one that has considerable merit, is product stewardship.

Product stewardship is defined as “the principle that everyone involved in a product supply chain - including raw material and component suppliers, product and packaging manufacturers, brand owners, recyclers, governments and consumers - share responsibility for minimising environmental impacts over that product’s life cycle”  . Product stewardship can therefore make a significant contribution to the circular economy. Stewardship, at its best, takes a life cycle thinking approach to ensure products and materials are designed to avoid adverse impacts on society and the environment and that the resources consumed are retained within the productive economy in a cyclical manner.

The Vinyl Council, through its PVC Stewardship Program, has been at the forefront of this journey in Australia for quite some time. The Program commits Signatories to implement life cycle thinking and consider the whole-of-life impacts of the products that they introduce to the marketplace. This encompasses a wide range of considerations including raw materials and resources, embodied carbon, toxicity, and lifespan. This has resulted in the sector producing products that deliver proven environmental benefits, as a function of their excellent performance, durability, low waste generation and affordability which has been borne out through numerous lifecycle assessments carried out globally and locally.

Furthermore, when stakeholders collaborate, opportunities arise for better resource management, which in turn can stimulate local employment and deliver greater security and access to the inputs needed by local manufacturers. The Vinyl Council is pleased Federal and State Governments have recently announced funding programs which  may provide opportunities to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs to develop new systems and infrastructure, or products, which will lead to enhanced recovery and reprocessing of greater volumes of PVC for the domestic market.

The Council firmly believes that a product stewardship focus can translate into tangible financial and reputational benefits for those organisations that embrace and commit to implementing product stewardship approaches. These benefits are evident both in the public realm but also in the disciplines it enforces on organisations in terms of how they manage and monitor their day to day operations.

Furthermore, acting as leaders through product stewardship delivers:

  • Differentiation in the marketplace that leads to competitive advantage. Establishing stewardship credentials through independent third-party schemes, as the PVC program does, demonstrates not only a company’s commitment to continuous improvement but may also differentiate it from competitors. Increasingly, down-stream customers want to know how their suppliers manage their environmental affairs. Independent and third-party verified schemes enable those involved to spruik their credentials and demonstrate their accountability and
    transparency.

  • Access to markets. At present, governments at all levels are reviewing their procurement frameworks and policies to examine how these systems can be used to support and stimulate circular economy objectives, including boosting demand for recycled content products. In doing so, governments are likely to preference those businesses who are members of recognised and reputable product stewardship schemes. This will facilitate access to markets for those businesses participating in these stewardship schemes.

  • Reducing liability. A company is best positioned when it understands its products holistically. Product stewardship, particularly a life cycle-based scheme, fosters a proactive approach within businesses to consider the supply chain risks and the various lifecycle stages of the products they are releasing into the market. It therefore reduces risk and better prepares them for future challenges.

  • More effective business management. Implementing product stewardships schemes within businesses imposes disciplines around establishing appropriate systems that enable organisations to measure performance, monitor outcomes and control direction. This can aid in minimising risks, enhancing profitability as well as in fulfilling obligations in relation to regulatory compliance.

  • Strengthening organisational culture. Embedding environmental and social sustainability as core values of a business’ operations can support buy-in and pride from its workforce.

With a significant track record of driving change through the industry since 2002, the PVC Stewardship Program is an example of voluntary stewardship bringing benefit to both industry and community.

If you are an Australian business operating in the vinyls product sector and are interesting in learning more about our PVC Stewardship Program, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 03 9510 1711.

For our latest results, please check out our annual Progress Report.