Mattresses, tyres, and healthcare plastics added to government’s priority list for circular solutions

By Rachael Ridley 15 November 2022

Mattresses, tyres, and plastics in healthcare products have been added to the list of materials that require urgent action from industry to implement recycling solutions.

The announcement will require relevant manufacturers and importers to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products, providing consumers with recycling services once the products have reached their end of life. This type of extended producer responsibility is often referred to as product stewardship, where industry-led initiatives aim to reduce the environmental impact of the products by keeping the materials in use and out of landfill, and by improving design and manufacturing processes.

The Australian Government made the announcement during Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week, expanding the list of priority materials which already includes textiles, child car seats, solar panels, oil containers, electrical and electronic products, and unnecessary single-use plastics. The Minister’s Priority List signals to industry that unless adequate measures are taken to improve the environmental impacts of the products on the list, the government will consider regulation.

Why were these materials selected?

Each year, the Minister for the Environment and Water decides which products should be removed or added to the priority list (no materials were removed this year). The materials added to this year’s list were selected based on nominations from the business community and the public, as well as consultation with state and local governments and organisations such as the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence.

While there are existing recycling initiatives for mattresses and tyres, both schemes are voluntary and, according to the government, are not seeing high enough participation from businesses.

Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said in a statement that more needs to done as “around half of tyre importers do not contribute financially to the current Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme”.

“About 22,000 tonnes of mattresses still go into landfill every year, while another 15,000 tonnes of material is recovered from mattresses but is still dumped because there is currently no market for it,” said Minister Plibersek.

Plastics in healthcare products have been identified as a waste stream where higher recovery rates can be achieved with 85 per cent of the products being non-toxic and similar to domestic waste.

Director of the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence, Rose Read, said in a statement that “while there are some excellent single brand initiatives in healthcare plastics, much work is needed to create an industry-wide solution”.

“The Centre will be proactively working with the product industries listed in helping them develop and implement solutions to minimise the environmental and human impacts of their products across the entire lifecycle. From designing out waste and pollution to keeping these products and materials in use as we transition to a decarbonised circular economy,” said Ms Read.

To find out more about Product Stewardship Schemes in Australia, visit Recycling Near You.

Rachael Ridley
Rachael manages the Business Recycling and Recycling Near You websites. Rachael joined Planet Ark in early 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor, and writer. Rachael loves using her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change. Outside of work, Rachael enjoys spending time in nature, listening to music, and patting dogs.