International E-Waste Laws Extend to Victoria

The global push for prohibitions on both the landfilling and exporting (to the developing world) of e-waste has given rise to new legislative initiatives in many parts of the world.  The Australian State of Victoria has just enacted new e-waste restrictions effectively prohibiting the disposal of electronic or electrical equipment to landfill and requiring its treatment to occur within Australia, thereby generating opportunities for domestic resource recovery providers. The e-waste law is effective July 1st, 2019.

What is caught as e-waste?

E-Waste broadly includes any waste created from electronic or electrical equipment and includes anything that has a cord, battery or plug. This includes waste ranging from batteries to fridges. Sustainability Victoria has released a non-exhaustive list of products that are considered to be e-waste, which can be viewed here.

Who will be impacted by the new restrictions?

The restrictions, imposed under the Waste Management Policy (E-Waste) (E-Waste Policy), apply to any individual or organization that is involved in the generating, collecting, storing, handling, transporting or reprocessing, of e-waste. This means that the entire supply chain, both upstream and downstream, will be covered by the new requirements. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Policy Impact Assessment (DELWP Policy) provides the following examples of those covered by the E-Waste Policy for guidance:

  • Generation – any type of organization that uses electrical or electronic equipment. For example, post office outlets, fitness centres, administrative offices, medical centres, commercial kitchens or retailers.
  • Collection / storage – e-waste recyclers, metal recyclers, material recovery facility operators, warehouse operators or retailer outlets offering take-back services.
  • Transport – e-waste recyclers, waste management organizations and transport companies.
  • Treatment – e-waste reproducers, metal recyclers and repair services.
  • Disposal – landfill operators.

General requirement

The E-Waste Policy requires an individual or organization involved in one or more of the above activities relating to e-waste to take all reasonable steps to eliminate risk to human health and the environment. This can include, but is not limited to, preventing the breakage or spillage of e-waste or the disposal of e-waste with a compliant e-waste service provider. Compliance with this general obligation could also include taking reasonable steps to:

  • prevent e-waste being disposed of in landfill; and
  • maximize recovery of e-waste production.

E-waste service providers

Under the E-Waste Policy there are also specific requirements imposed on e-waste service providers, which includes any organization that accepts e-waste for collection, storage, handling, transport or reprocessing.

E-waste service providers must:

  • take reasonable steps to minimize the duration e-waste is stored;
  • when transporting e-waste, maintain information for each load transported; and
  • when reprocessing e-waste:
    •  minimize the amount of residual waste;
    • record information; and
    • comply with the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) and Australian Standards.

Enforcement

It is acknowledged that organizations may take 12 – 24 months to reach full compliance with the new e-waste requirements. The Environment Protection Agency Victoria (EPA) will not initiate enforcement action until after 1 July 2020 and will work with organizations to assist them to become compliant in that time. After this, the EPA will take enforcement action against a non-compliant organization by:

  • conducting inspections (both planned and random) of organizations’ premises;
  • issuing an administrative notice identifying the need to comply with the E-Waste Policy; and
  • if still non-compliant, taking enforcement action for breach of notice.

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For further information, please contact Jonathan Cocker:

jonathan.cocker@bakermckenzie.com

416-865-6908

Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm's Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. He assisted in the founding of one of North America’s first Circular Economy Producer Responsibility Organizations and provides advice and representation to a number of domestic and international industry groups in respect of resource recovery obligations. Mr. Cocker was recently appointed the first Sustainability Officer of the International Bar Association Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on environmental issues and has authored numerous publications including recent publications in the Environment and Climate Change Law Review, Detritus – the Official Journal of the International Waste Working Group, Chemical Watch, Circular Economy: Global Perspectives published by Springer, and in the upcoming Yale University Journal of Industrial Ecology’s special issue on Material Efficiency for Climate Change Mitigation. Mr. Cocker maintains a blog focused upon international resource recovery issues at environmentlawinsights.com.

Author

Meredith Gibbs is Counsel at Baker McKenzie specialising in environmental, planning, water and climate change law and a Sessional Member of Planning Panels. Meredith is experienced in a wide variety of planning and development matters including planning approvals and advice, heritage matters, restrictive covenants, local government processes and compulsory acquisition of land. She also advises environmental and regulatory issues including contaminated land and groundwater, dangerous goods and hazardous substances, water regulation, trading and contracting arrangements, incident response, executive officer liability and environmental due diligence. Meredith is recognised in Australian Financial Review's Best Lawyers® for Planning & Environment Law, Natural Resources Law, Climate Change Law (10 year award and Climate Change Lawyer of the Year in 2011), Government Practice and Energy Law and is a Nationally Accredited. Meredith has held positions as a senior lecturer in planning law at Massey University, New Zealand, senior solicitor in resource management law with Hesketh Henry lawyers, Auckland, lecturer at the Universities of Auckland and Melbourne, environmental advocate for the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, and consultant to a Maori tribal authority. She holds a PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand.