Battery recycling in Australia – what are the next steps?
by Ellen Thornton at 13:45 in Battery, Environmental

Currently, in Australia, only 5% of handheld rechargeable batteries are recycled. Many of these contain hazardous substances with the capacity to harm people and the environment. This was one of the issues discussed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Environment Ministers on 28th July in Melbourne. They recognised successful pilot schemes in Toowoomba and Brisbane which, supported by the Queensland gover​nment and Battery Industry Working Group, showed the willingness within the community to recycle batteries. Ministers agreed to continue to work with the battery industry and agreed to consider stewardship approaches at their next meeting. Furthermore, they mentioned the possibility of regulatory options to underpin a voluntary scheme and other options to be determined by individual states.

Current products stewardship

In Victoria, Sustainability Victoria has been running a number of stewardship programs for products including the battery scheme, BatteryBack​. Other programs include ByteBack for computers, PaintBack for paint and FlashBack for compact fluorescent lights. Regardless of the success of these schemes, the Environmental Protection Agency Victoria stresses that product stewardship is much more efficient when implemented nationally. This is much more effective as most companies affected by product stewardship operate nationally in Australia. As part of the National Waste Policy​, the Australian Government introduced the Product Stewardship Act 2011 which provides the framework to ​​manage national product stewardship schemes for products identified as national priorities. Televisions and computers will be the first to be managed under the national legislation with a lot of people pushing for batteries to be included as well.

Opinion

The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI)​ fully support the recommendations from the Industry Working Group to the Environment Ministers for a national recycling program for rechargeable batteries. Although, they still think more should be done and have called on the government to expand the scope of the recommended scheme to include all batteries.  They say that if they are not managed correctly, batteries can end up in landfills leading to increased incidences of landfill fires with significant increases of dioxins into the atmosphere. This can lead to serious ongoing health impacts and hence increased health service costs.

EU comparison

In comparison, the European Union implemented its batteries and accumulator’s directive in 2006. The directive applies to all types of batteries and accumulators regardless and says that Member States must maximise collection of waste batteries and accumulators to minimise that reaching landfills. Collection schemes are required to be put in place so that batteries can be discarded of with no charge along with a number of other requirements of Member States to facilitate free and easy battery recycling for consumers. Manufacturers should also work with the Member State in order to improve the environmental performance of batteries and to develop batteries which contain less polluting or dangerous substances. With battery recycling rates above 50% in countries across the EU, it is clear that legislation covering all battery types can be effectively implemented.

If you need any more help with battery schemes please contact us.