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Business and public policy case for battery recycling

Sustainability Victoria (SV) has engaged consultancy MS2 to undertake research to inform the business case for battery stewardship in Australia. The focus is on handheld batteries (i.e. less than 1-2kg), including alkaline, nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium ion batteries.
A number of industry and government run battery recycling programs are already operating successfully in Australia, including:

  • Product stewardship programs developed by retailers Battery World and ALDI. Both companies provide a free drop-off and recycling service for customers
  • Sustainability Victoria’s BatteryBackTM program in Melbourne, which is run with the support of retail partners Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks and Michaels Camera Stores; as well as Detox your Home that offers drop-off locations across Victoria for domestic batteries.
  • An extensive recycling program operated by the WA Local Government Association in Perth with state government funding, which provides over 150 drop-off points throughout the city.

The recycling rate for handheld batteries was estimated to be less than 5% in 2010. The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) is investigating a range of options to facilitate increased recycling, including regulation if required. This project will help to inform that process by collecting data and engaging with key stakeholders about the best way forward.
Russ Martin from MS2 will initially interview stakeholders in Australia and overseas to gather information on:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of alternative collection and funding models
  • Options for government intervention to promote increased recycling, ranging from no involvement (i.e. a totally voluntary program) through to a co-regulatory arrangement similar to the current TV and computer recycling regulations.

This will be a collaborative project coordinated by Sustainability Victoria and ABRI. It builds on the outcomes of a stakeholder workshop held in Melbourne in August 2012, in which a number of ABRI members participated.
The first outcome of the project will be a background paper that will outline:

  • The vision/objectives of a national program
  • The current status of battery recycling in Australia
  • The business case for battery stewardship (rationale for business involvement)
  • The public policy case for battery stewardship (including but not limited to eligibility under the Product Stewardship Act)
  • The proposed framework and foundations for a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS)
  • Recommendations for action at a national and state level.

ABRI’s Handheld Battery Working Group will review and provide feedback on the background paper and final report, which is expected to be finalised by May 2013.