Bucking the trend: CMA Ecocycle

Bucking the trend: CMA Ecocycle

CMA Ecocycle has spent the past 18 months planning a first-of-its-kind battery recycling plant set to become a critical part of Victoria’s e-waste recycling infrastructure network. 

Only three per cent of Australia’s battery waste is recycled each year – this will ensure Victoria has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in the country,” Victorian Government Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said in April this year.

The words come off the back of the government’s announcement to upgrade 130 e-waste collection sites across the country. 

The government’s $16.5 million investment will coincide with the state’s ban on e-waste to landfill, which commences on 1 July 2019.

One company that has remained far ahead of these developments has been CMA Ecocycle. When Waste Management Review last caught up with CMA Ecocycle’s Daryl Moyle in its September 2018 issue, Daryl explained how the organisation had been keeping a close eye on overseas trends, having attended international conferences such as the International Congress for Battery Recycling for a number of years. 

Its capabilities in lighting waste recycling remained well established through its processing plant and batch process distillers. Now, CMA is taking its abilities to the next level with the planning of a first-of-its-kind battery recycling plant expected for launch in April 2019. 

The $2.5 million plant has capacity to process more than 5000 tonnes of batteries each year with the ability to identify more than 3000 battery types by chemistry, brand, size and shape. The plant has been made a reality thanks to a significant grant from Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund. To ensure the facility can service Victoria’s upcoming ban on e-waste to landfill, the facility combines a best practice combination of overseas turnkey solutions and Australian-engineered conveyors and sorting systems. 

With CMA’s Chief Executive Officer Doug Rowe having visited international battery plants and conferences around the world, the facility has been in development for more than 18 months. Significant planning was required for CMA around selecting the right technology, e-waste bins and set-up. Daryl says that one of the most inspiring schemes CMA saw was the Bebat program in Belgium, which has operated for more than 20 years and obtained a 70 per cent collection rate in 2016 from its 24,366 collection points. 

WHEELS IN MOTION

When planning the facility, CMA found a suitable space in its old silver recovery site at its Campbellfield facility in Melbourne, designing the plant from the ground up to fit into its existing building.

He says that the process flows formed a critical part of the planning process, including material inflows and outflows, with consideration given to ensuring mixed batteries are not stockpiled.

Daryl says that significant planning was required around the collection and types of bins required, with efforts to boost community engagement around battery recycling. 

“We’ve looked at user-friendly containers that can sit on your kitchen bench and are aesthetically pleasing to ensure batteries are placed in there after being used,” Daryl says. 

COLLECTION FOOTPRINT

As its collection process is already well established, CMA has also engaged with schools and offered its e-waste recycling services across the country. 

For other select clients, CMA offers degraded battery collection and storage boxes made of galvanised steel to prevent battery explosions. The lids of the boxes also contain aerosol fire extinguishers designed to suppress lithium battery fires. “The safety aspect is huge. We are bringing into the country the latest technology in dealing with lithium battery fires.”

Daryl says CMA has also been observing fires in electric vehicles and is at the forefront of technologies which could solve these challenges. 

AUTOMATED SORTING

As far as the plant is concerned, the facility will involve a combination of pre-sorting, automated and manual sorting and separate all types of batteries into their respective streams, whether it be alkaline and zinc, which make up the greatest proportion of battery waste, or lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium and button cell batteries.

“We felt it was the best available technology in the world due to its ability to sort at such a wide range, speed, accuracy and identify up to 3000 brands. 

“Plus, any new types of batteries that come into the market can be added to the program,” Daryl says. 

He says the plant will not only be able to weigh batteries, but CMA will be aware of all batteries travelling through the system – a useful tool for batteries importers or others wanting to ascertain the lifespan of the variety of international and local brands. 

Daryl says that while the plant is commercially viable now, CMA is a strong proponent of a battery stewardship scheme in Australia and active participant of the Battery Stewardship Council – which is tasked with designing an industry-led scheme. Daryl hopes a scheme will be presented to the next meeting of environment ministers for further consideration.

“This is Australia’s first major battery separation plant, but we brought it to Victoria for a reason to help with the e-waste ban to landfill,” Daryl says.

“We want to be part of the ban and support it so we can take our processing plant to the next stage as time goes by and see a total battery solution here in the country.”

This article was published in the November issue of Waste Management Review.