Why is Battery Stewardship Important?
Australians are becoming increasingly reliant on batteries in small handheld devices, and for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems. By 2036 it is projected we will generate 137,000 – 186,000 tonnes of waste lithium batteries each year – the weight of the opera house!
Find out more on why battery stewardship is important.
What are the opportunities?
Product Stewardship in Australia is delivering results for products such as computers and televisions, and mobile phones. Similar schemes have been operating Europe since 1991 and more recently in the US. We can build on the experience of these schemes to create an effective and efficient scheme for batteries.
We have capability
The battery recycling sector is expanding rapidly at the moment and the outlook is that this will continue as demand for services escalates. A national scheme will provide certainty to industry to enable investment in expanded capacity and ensure that we have an onshore processing capability that is secure and self sustaining in the long term. Australia recycles more than 90% of lead acid batteries. This has created expertise & infrastructure we can draw on for other types of batteries. We can also learn from the experience of some retailers, state governments, and councils who provide drop off facilities for batteries.
Shipping lines are beginning to restrict shipping of batteries due to the fire risk. If this continues as expected, exporting the problem will not be an option. A battery stewardship scheme would see investment in local solutions and green jobs.
What are the risks?
Perhaps the biggest risk is community safety. Both improper storage in the home and disposal to landfill can create a very real fire risk. The loss of a home is extremely serious, but the impact of a landfill fire effects many more lives with the release of dioxins and other toxins into the atmosphere. A national scheme will make a big difference in removing spent batteries from harms way and ensuring they are processed by those with the equipment and skills necessary to do so safely.
Responsible use of resources
Batteries are mostly comprised of metals & plastic. Some metals contained in batteries, such as cobalt are mined in communities without the proper protections. Out of respect for them, we should be ensuring that this practices is stopped, but also to take care to manage these materials carefully rather than sending them to landfill. Disposal to landfill means these resources are locked up from further use. In a circular economy, we would see valuable resources used again, capturing metals & reducing the need for extraction of raw materials.
To prevent export liability
Shipping lines are starting to restrict shipping of batteries due to fire risk. In recent years port fires caused by batteries have raised alarm bells. The trend is to disallow export, reducing access to overseas solutions. Local certainty and investment is needed to secure onshore solutions.