Product stewardship schemes provide Australians with greater access to recycling and safe disposal services for products once they have reached their end of life. Also known as extended producer responsibility, the schemes encourage manufacturers and importers to take greater responsibility for the waste their products create by providing the public with recycling options.
Generally, the cost of waste is borne by the consumer, governments, and councils as clean-up and landfill costs. Product stewardship helps share this cost by having industry fund the recycling schemes.
Product stewardship schemes aim to minimise the health and environmental impacts of a product over its entire lifecycle. While many product stewardship schemes focus on recycling solutions, some also consider other measures to reduce the environmental impacts of products such as design, production, distribution, reuse, and material recovery.
Product Stewardship in Action
Australia has many product stewardship schemes which operate under different models including co-regulatory and voluntary schemes.
Batteries 4 Planet Ark offers a cost-effective and accessible national recycling service for handheld batteries for businesses, workplaces, and other organisations. Accredited through Australia’s national battery recycling scheme, B-cycle, the program is made possible through a partnership with Planet Ark, Close the Loop and Envirostream. The service provides door-to-door collection for workplaces across the country and is not for public collection of batteries.Find Out More
Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is an innovative recycling program that provides Australians with a free and easy way to recycle their used printer cartridges. This voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program is supported by participating manufacturers: Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Cartridge World, and Kyocera to collectively take responsibility for the end life of their products.Find Out More
Australian Bedding Stewardship Council
The Australian Bedding Stewardship Council (ABSC) is a not-for-profit, industry partnership established to tackle the problem of mattress and bedding disposal. By working with governments of all levels, supply chain managers, manufacturers, retailers, and recyclers it seeks to move towards a circular economy for mattresses and bedding products.
Recycle My Mattress is a product stewardship program administered by the Australian Bedding Stewardship Council, which helps individuals recycle their old mattresses.
Soft Landings is a national social enterprise operating across NSW, ACT, Victoria, and WA. They divert mattresses from landfill and recover the components to recycle whilst creating meaningful and stable jobs within the resource recovery industry.
Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO)
APCO is a co-regulatory, not for profit organisation partnering with government and industry to reduce the environmental impact of packaging in Australian communities. APCO delivers this model of shared responsibility through the promotion of sustainable packaging activities including sustainable design, recycling initiatives, waste to landfill reduction and circular economy projects.
Battery Stewardship Council
The Battery Stewardship Council was established with the primary goal of implementing a national battery recycling scheme in Australia. It aims to increase recycling rates of batteries by providing the public with greater access to recycling services. In 2022, the council launched B-cycle, a battery recycling scheme that brings together importers, retailers, and everyday Australians to prevent used batteries from being sent to landfill by recycling them into new products and materials.
Container Deposit Schemes
The Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) is a recycling scheme for certain types of bottles, cans, and cartons that anyone can use to receive a 10c refund per container recycled. Originally created to reduce litter, CDS have far-reaching environmental and social benefits. Every state and territory in Australia have or will soon have a CDS.
Everyday Dental Recycling Program
Toothbrushes and other oral care products cannot be recycled at home through council-run kerbside recycling services. Bupa Dental have partnered with Colgate and TerraCycle to provide Australians with a recycling service for everyday dental care items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers and electric toothbrush heads. Products collected through the program are repurposed into useful new products like garden furniture and playground equipment.
FluoroCycle is a national scheme that aims to increase the recycling of lamps that contain mercury and reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment. To achieve this, FluoroCycle provides a voluntary scheme which businesses, government agencies and other organisations can join as signatories, giving them public recognition for their commitment to recycling. Australians can use the scheme to find a recycler.
Medicinal Blister Packs
Medicine blister packs (the packaging used for pills and tablets) should not be put in your household recycling bin. Empty blister packs can, however, be recycled through some pharmacies through specialised recycling programs operated by Pharmacycle and TerraCycle.
MobileMuster is Australia’s official recycling program of the mobile phone industry. It is a not-for-profit recycling program funded voluntarily by handset and accessory manufacturers. The program provides free recycling drop-off points for Australians for their old or broken mobile phones and accessories.
National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme
In 2011, the Australian Government introduced a national, industry-funded, recycling scheme for televisions, computers, and computer accessories. The scheme prevents millions of old TVs and computers from being sent to landfill by providing opportunities for the community to recycle them free of charge.
Four organisations are currently approved to deliver recycling services under the scheme: Ecycle Solutions, TechCollect, Sustainable Product Stewards Pty Ltd, and The Activ Group Solutions Pty Ltd (Ecoactiv).
Paintback is a cost-effective solution for households and trade painters to responsibly dispose unwanted paint and packaging, providing 165 drop-off locations nationally. It is the first national program of its kind in the world to be developed and voluntarily run by the paint industry. More than a million litres of unwanted paint were diverted from landfill in its first year of operation.
Podcycle is a new product stewardship scheme being established by Planet Ark in collaboration with scheme partners Nespresso and Woolworths, and funded by the Australian government's National Product Stewardship Investment Fund. The scheme is set to launch in 2023 and aims to provide Australians with easy access to recycling services for all kinds of coffee capsules and pods.
Nespresso currently has a recycling scheme for its aluminium coffee capsules. Customers can recycle their used aluminium coffee capsules by dropping them off at designated collection points or by returning them through the mail by purchasing a satchel from the retailer (they hold up to 130 capsules).
REDcycle - soft plastics recycling
Operating since 2011, the REDcycle soft plastics recycling program has helped Australians recycle more than 5 billion pieces of soft plastic. The program has been temporarily paused and aims to be running again as soon as possible.
StyroCycle Polystyrene Recycling
StyroCycle is a recycling scheme for certain types of expanded polystyrene products including protective packaging from small and large appliances, vegetable boxes, construction EPS and beanbag beans. Households and small businesses can use the service to drop off eligible polystyrene products for recycling. All polystyrene must be clean and free from tape, food, or other contaminants before it can be recycled.
Drop-off points are located in Victoria and South Australia, with recycling locations in development in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. StyroCycle is working with industry and government bodies to increase the number of recycling depots and collections for expanded polystyrene. This includes a partnership with industry body Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA).
Tyre Stewardship Australia
In recent years all governments have worked with the tyre industry to establish Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) and a voluntary industry-funded tyre product stewardship scheme. This scheme aims to increase both the number of tyres recycled in Australia and the use of recycled tyres in the manufacture of new products. Tyre industry participants who apply for and gain TSA accreditation must commit to playing their part in sustainable end-of-life use for tyres. TSA makes it easier for consumers to recycle their old tyres by providing a directory of accredited retailers.
Return Unwanted Medicines
The Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) program provides consumers with a free and convenient way to dispose of expired and unwanted medicines. Anyone can return their household medicines to any community pharmacy for safe collection and disposal.
RUM is a national not-for-profit company funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Health to address the Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) in Australia. The returned medicines are disposed of by high-temperature incineration, which is in accordance with regulatory and EPA requirements.