Why regulation is not the best option for Australian Industry to wait for
Globally, activity, pressure and ultimately, regulation is increasing around industry responsibility for the impacts their products have on the environment and human health at end-of-life, and that design for circularity is necessary. This article provides an example of the impact that mandatory government regulation on the mattress industry in USA has had. It outlines the increase in Australian Government intervention in the product stewardship space through the Environment Minister’s Priority List, and that retaining a say in the future for your industry through participation provides better outcomes for your business.
Industries across Australia seem to have an attitude that, rather than supporting voluntary product stewardship schemes, it’s better to wait for government regulation to ‘level the playing field’. The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water has already put the Australian Bedding industry on notice to not wait for regulation. This news release by BedTimes magazine dated August 2022, is an excellent example of why waiting is not an approach that should be fostered for the bedding industry.
“Sacramento – Los Angeles retailer, ‘101 Design Furniture and Mattresses’, faces US$68,916 in penalties”.
Mattress recycling is regulated in 4 states in the USA – California, Rhode Island, Connecticut and in implementation phase in Oregon, managed by not-for-profit Mattress Recycling Council (MRC). California is very proactive in regulation to move towards a circular economy for the State. In addition to registering with MRC, entities selling mattresses must –
- Add a mattress recycling charge to the price of each mattress, [base] and futon
- Clearly display the charge as a separate line item on the customer invoice/receipt (like you would GST)
- Offer the customer to pick up their old mattress upon delivery of the new one at no additional cost, even if ordered online
- Provide the State body – CalRecycle (like Sustainability Victoria) with access to their facilities and compliance records
In an investigation conducted in 2020 on this retailer, CalRecycle identified the following –
- Failure to collect recycling charges and remit them to the mattress recycling program
- Failure to provide inspectors access to their facilities
- Failure to provide compliance records to state inspectors
The Australian mattress industry has been put on notice by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in November 2022 adding mattresses to The Ministers Priority list for 2022-23. The Hon. Tanya Plibersek told the industry to get their act together or she will regulate. Read this media release
The Australian Government will move to regulation should they not see enough activity by industry to
- reduce waste going to landfill, especially harmful materials
- encourage all those involved in the creation, sale, use and disposal of mattresses to act in a way that is consistent with reducing waste to landfill
- increase recovery and re-use of valuable materials in a safe, scientific and environmentally sound manner
- provide convenient access to recycling services across Australia
- help Australia take responsibility for its own waste and re-use the materials to make other products, and support Australia’s transition to a circular economy
Other industries put on notice by the Australian Government should be a warning.
Another industry under scrutiny is clothing textiles with their voluntary product stewardship – Seamless, only attracting 6 brands to pledge to the scheme due to launch in July 2024. Clothing textiles were added to the Minister’s Priority List just a year before mattresses in 2021. In an excellent speech at the Seamless launch on June 8th, Plibersek states
- Industry needs to think ahead, we cannot accept exponential growth of waste going to landfill and exponential use of finite resources
- Australians want to recycle. Help them do that and they will pat you on the back
- Your customers, shareholders and staff will thank you
- For those that have not signed up, do so, take charge or I’ll do it
If Plibersek does not see movement within a year, she will take over and regulate and she will set the requirements of the scheme and the amount of the levy.
Potential increase in mattresses banned from landfills in Australia – what do we do about unsightly stockpiles of discarded mattresses?
The additional risk for the bedding industry is increased scrutiny of the impacts of mattresses in landfills (and the cost to councils to manage mattresses in landfills and that have been dumped). ACT has already banned them, and the Queensland Government will soon commence consultation about banning mattresses from entering QLD landfills. We need to increase our mattress recycler network across the country or face ugly stockpiles of mattresses and an increase in illegal dumping on our streets and bushlands. This is not a favourable look for the bedding industry.
To bedding retailers, manufacturers and importers:
Don’t wait to be told what to do, how to do it and how much it is going to cost your business. Show leadership in your industry, commitment to Government targets, and foresight to your customers by participating in the Bedding Stewardship Scheme. The ABSC aims to build an ethical and responsible recycler network for you and consumers to access, keep as many mattresses and their materials out of landfill as possible and find solutions for those problematic materials that are impacting our environment and human health.
- Approximately 1.8 million mattresses are discarded every year in Australia
- Of that 1.8 million, 40% go straight to landfill and up to as much as 60% of the balance in weight end up in landfill also
- Approximately 220,000 tonnes of clothing textiles end up in Australian landfills every year
- ACT has banned mattresses in landfill and QLD will soon commence consideration of the same legislation
- Micro plastics in our soils, waterways and air are increasing at a frightening rate with studies now indicating that every Australian ingests micro plastics the size of a credit card every week
- Mattresses contain plastics such as synthetic fibres and textiles, and polymers such as foams
- Over 50% of Gen Z are already participating in the circular economy
- Gen X has become 42% more willing to pay more for sustainable products, to business showing they are on the journey