Product stewardship schemes

NSW, and all other Australian jurisdictions, are working towards the development of national product stewardship schemes.

Product stewardship

Product stewardship involves taking responsibility for the full life cycle of a product, including the development, design, creation, production, assembly, supply, use or re-use, recovery, recycling or disposal of the product. It is one of the ways that businesses can promote and support the principles of a circular economy and reduce the impact, or potential impact, of a product on the environment and human health.

Product stewardship goes beyond extended producer responsibility (EPR), which involves producers taking physical or financial responsibility for managing the environmental impact of their products only at the post-consumer state of their life cycle.

Product stewardship legislation in NSW

The Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 (PRCE Act) allows for product stewardship requirements and targets to be established for the entire life cycle of a regulated product. If a product becomes regulated under the PRCE Act, brand owners of the regulated products can be required to:

  • meet product stewardship requirements and/or targets
  • prepare an action plan, submitted in an approved form and approved by the EPA before a regulated product is supplied in or into NSW
  • provide an annual report to the EPA, using an approved form
  • prepare, store and make certain records available to the EPA on request
  • comply with directions from the EPA, including a stop notice or request for an independent audit of their records
  • provide a financial assurance to secure or guarantee funding for implementing actions needed to meet product stewardship requirements or targets.

Failure to comply with a product stewardship requirement or target, action plan or other direction from the EPA is an offence under Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021.

The EPA may also publish information about brand owner names and their performance against product stewardship requirements or targets and compliance or non-compliance with the legislation.

The NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 also provides for the implementation and operation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) and/or product stewardship schemes in connection with a product, group of products or an industry in New South Wales.

Supporting national initiatives

The NSW Government supports national product stewardship arrangements for priority products through the National Waste Policy and National Waste Action Plan. NSW supports a national approach to product stewardship because many products are sold in national markets and are problematic in all jurisdictions.

This includes developing and implementing partnerships across government and business to:

  • ensure ownership and responsibility for actions to minimise the negative impacts from products,
  • ensure the avoidance or minimisation of waste, and
  • maximise reuse, repair and recycling of products and materials throughout their life cycle.

The Commonwealth Government administers the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 which provides a national framework for industries to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the entire product lifecycle, from the design stage through to when products become waste. Each year, the Commonwealth Minister provides a priority list of products and materials considered to be most in need of product stewardship action and that may need regulatory intervention if industry does not take voluntary action. All State and Territory governments provide input to this list.

National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS)

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme was established in 2011 and requires companies who import or manufacture television and computer products (over certain thresholds) to pay for a proportion of recycling, by becoming members of a co-regulatory arrangement. The scheme is designed to build on existing recycling services that are already available, and increase the recovery of materials in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

This arrangement diverts television and computer products (including computer parts and printers) from landfill by providing Australian households and small businesses with free access to industry-funded collection and recycling services. Find out more about how to dispose of unwanted e-waste.

The scheme is regulated under the national Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 and the Recycling and Waste Reduction (Product stewardship–televisions and computers) Rules 2021. This legislation sets annual recycling targets for industry to meet, starting at 70% in 2021–2022 and increasing annually, to 80% for 2026–27 and onwards. Annual reports are published by the Commonwealth Government.

Product Stewardship for Oil Scheme (PSO)

The Product Stewardship for Oil Scheme (PSO) was introduced by the Australian Government in 2001 to increase used oil recycling. The scheme pays incentives to industry to encourage the environmentally sustainable management and re-refining of used oil and support economic recycling options for used oil. The scheme is regulated under the national Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000 which sets out the framework and incentives paid to used oil recyclers.

In NSW, small, household quantities of used oils can be taken free of charge to a Community Recycling Centre or Household Chemical CleanOut event. Check the community recycling page for further guidelines on what you can and can’t take to these facilities.

For business-related and commercial quantities of used oils, please inquire with a commercial waste operator or visit Business Recycling for commercial waste disposal options.

Consumer packaging

The National Environmental Protection Measure (Used Packaging Materials) 2011 (NEPM UPM) establishes a national, co-regulatory product stewardship arrangement for consumer packaging which sets obligations for certain businesses to manage their packaging waste in a sustainable way.

The NEPM UPM requires all states and territories to provide and enforce regulations to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer packaging across Australia. In NSW, the NEPM UPM is currently supported through Part 8 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 (the Waste Regulation).

Under Part 8 of this Regulation, certain businesses (brand owners and retailers) with a gross annual income in Australia of $5 million or more, have an obligation to minimise the environmental impact of their packaging. Businesses can fulfil this responsibility by either:

  • becoming a signatory to, and complying with, the Australian Packaging Covenant, OR
  • choosing to be regulated by the EPA in accordance with specific recovery targets and the other reporting requirements set out in the Waste Regulation.

In the case of companies that choose to be regulated by the EPA, the packaging targets are as follows:

  • 90% recovery of all materials used in packaging products up to and including 30 June 2024
  • 100% of new and existing packaging must be reviewed using the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines.

As part of the commitments under the NSW Plastics Action Plan 2021, the NSW Government will require businesses who are not part of the Australian Packaging Covenant to also meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets. This means that packaging targets will change in future.

Find out more about whether these obligations apply to your business and options for meeting packaging waste obligations.

More information about product stewardship

Nationally accredited and regulated programs

See the Commonwealth Government's list of national product stewardship schemes that are mandatory, co-regulated, or have received a voluntary accreditation.

Voluntary programs

The Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence maintains a list of all product stewardship schemes in Australia, including voluntary industry initiatives and programs that are in development.

Industries “on notice” for product stewardship action

The Commonwealth publishes the annual Minister’s Priority List, that identifies the products and materials considered to be most in need of a product stewardship approach. The Commonwealth Minister’s Priority List informs the community and industry about what is being considered for future regulation under the national Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020, if industry does not take adequate action.

EPA support for product stewardship programs

The EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative provides grants and funding for a range of waste and recycling projects, including product stewardship initiatives.

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