Five benefits of a workplace battery recycling program

With less than 10 per cent of batteries sold in Australia each year recycled, e-waste recyclers CMA Ecocycle are seeking to reshape the landscape dramatically.

The benefits of recycling batteries go beyond environmental, with a number of financial benefits that can also be gained from doing so. CMA Ecocycle below highlight five of the benefits that come with battery recycling.

  1. Reduced landfill costs

The greater the volume of waste sent for recycling, the lower the landfill costs a business needs to pay. Victoria’s ban on e-waste to landfill will also encourage more businesses to think twice about sending their batteries to landfill as if the policy is properly policed, businesses could face hefty fines for doing the wrong thing.

  1. A valued commodity

Lead acid is currently in demand, with lead, acid and plastic all easily and cheaply recycled. At present, most other types of batteries incur a net cost but this could change with more efficient collection programs and advances in recycling technology.

  1. Reduced future costs

Batteries contain valuable materials such as cobalt, manganese and lithium – finite resources subject to the laws of supply and demand. With demand soaring, dumping batteries removes these materials from the supply side of the equation while recycling them keeps them in circulation. Increasing the supply means lowering resource prices that will flow through to lower new battery prices.

  1. Reduced recruitment and training costs

Running visible recycling programs is one way of standing out from the crowd and good corporate social responsibility may help retain staff. Companies that rank poorly on environmental performance may face higher staff turnover and this will only lead to higher recruitment and training costs.

  1. Simplicity

Reaping the many financial benefits of battery recycling is easier than you might think.

CMA Ecocycle provides battery collection and recycling solutions ranging from two litre collection buckets up to the truckload.

To get started, all you need to do is call CMA Ecocycle on 1300 32 62 92, or head to their website and fill in a form.

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. 

Read more

Lithium Australia creates waste battery material

Lithium Australia has produced lithium-ion (Li-ION) battery material and batteries from mine waste using its SiLeach process.

Subsidiary Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) carried out the testing at its laboratory and pilot plant in Brisbane, Queensland.

Tri-lithium phosphate from mine waste was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material that was categorised as being of similar quality to standard battery cathode powder.

The SiLeach process eliminates the need for roasting during the lithium extraction process. Roasting involves lithium ore being heated on an industrial scale prior to leaching and is a costly, time consuming and environmentally impactful process.

Related stories:

In contrast to this, SiLeach allows the company to produce battery-grade lithium material from non-brine mineral resources at a cost similar to that of lithium-in-brine (LIB) producers, but without the environmental risks and high costs associated with roasting and evaporation ponds.

SiLeach can recover these battery-grade material from rejected mine waste including low-grade lepidolite mica feedstock.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin highlighted its ability to simplify the lithium extraction process.

“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce LIB cathode materials,” he said.

“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide — the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”

NWRIC calls for regulatory battery product stewardship scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

It has called on the Federal Environment Minister to broaden the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all types of handheld batteries up to five kilograms.

Related stories:

Under the NTCRS, more than 1800 collection services are available to the public which could be used to include batteries, according to NWRIC.

Lithium ion batteries pose hazards in kerbside recycling bins, potentially leading to spontaneous combustion if pierced due to mechanical handling in waste collection trucks and recycling facilities.

Lithium, nickel, lead and cadmium are finite resource in waste batteries that can be highly recyclable if correctly separated.

According to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative only three per cent of batteries are recycled, with 70 per cent being sent to landfill.

NWRIC said that such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” NWRIC said in a release.

ACOR releases 10 point recycling plan for National Waste Policy

The Australian Council of Recycling has released a 10-point plan for results-based recycling, which has been submitted to the consultation process for the new National Waste Policy.

It aims to assist the industry and government reaching the goal of 100 per cent recovery of recyclable, compostable, reusable or recoverable materials and their diversion from landfill.

The plan details public policy measures such as reforming waste levies to focus on increasing recycling rates with an exemption of recycling residuals across each state.

It also recommends a $1.5 billion investment of waste disposal levy funds into recycling, with transparency and allocation to resource recovery objectives. This funding could potentially be used to invest in recyclate market development and commercialisation projects, improving infrastructure and technology used for sorting and reprocessing, investment into data collection for decision making, and investment into the cost of kerbside recycling.

A landfill ban for batteries, e-waste, and other potentially hazardous materials is recommended in the report as a way of making end of life producer responsibility the way to pay for recycling.

It also recommends a national recycling infrastructure audit, development of new metrics for waste, recycling and resource recovery activity beyond tonnes diverted, the examination of trends and how to optimise parallel container deposit schemes to build a sustainable domestic recycling sector through national industry development.

The plan includes the introduction of a resource recovery incentive for industry with different tax levels for virgin and recycled material in packaging and road construction.

Improving contestability in the recycling sector, creating a dedicated Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding initiative to support recyclate materials collection and sorting, and using more energy recovered from residual waste to generate sustainable energy are key measures to improve recycling according to the report.

The plan also outlines standardising recycling methods and improving government approaches to planning, regulation and enforcement.

To read the plan, click here.

Brisbane battery recycling boost from Lithium Australia

Lithium Australia has announced it will begin manufacturing and recycling advanced battery materials at its research and development lab, VSPC, in Brisbane.

The company aims to close the loop in the energy-metals cycle and is seeking to establish a vertically integrated lithium processing business.

Related stories:

It aims to improve the lithium-ion battery supply chain with the company’s SiLeach lithium extraction process, superior cathode production, and enhanced recycling techniques for battery materials.

VSPC’s pilot production facilities have been fully re-commissioned, allowing the company to assemble and test lithium-ion coin and pouch cells.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company intended to turn VSPC into a global facility for manufacturing advanced cathode materials as well as for battery recycling.

“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world’s most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source,” he said.

“We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future. Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come.

“The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy,” Mr Griffin said.

Battery Stewardship Council welcomes changes

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has begun designing an industry-led stewardship scheme, which will undertake consultations of the industry and public in the coming months.

The BSC welcomed the plan to fast track the development of a stewardship scheme that aims to result in all types of batteries being recycled in Australia.

Related stories:

The meeting of Environmental Ministers on 27 April 2018 was called to address concerns in the Australian recycling industry with representatives from federal, state and territory ministers.

Of the 400 million batteries that enter the Australian market each year, less than three per cent of non-car batteries are recycled in Australia, according to a 2014 trend analysis and market assessment report, prepared on behalf of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation.

Toxic chemicals such as nickel, cadmium, alkaline and mercury are often found in batteries, and can be a risk to the environment and human health due to their flammability and the leaching of heavy metals.

The BSC was formed earlier in 2018, combining government and industry bodies, to undertake background work to understanding the markets and barriers to recycling that need to be addressed in a stewardship scheme.

The work of the Battery Stewardship Council is supported by the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) with funding from the QLD Department of Environment and Science.

Chairman of the Battery Stewardship Council Gerry Morvell said Australians have to stop the throw away mentality which wastes a fully recyclable resource and poses a long-term threat to human health and the environment.

“One of our key aims is to facilitate the building of a strong and effective battery recycling industry in Australia. We do not want a repetition of the go-stop issue that has emerged with plastics,” said Mr Morvell.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative Chief Executive Officer Libby Chaplin said there is a confluence of events paving the way for an industry led scheme that could quickly solve this rapidly escalating problem waste.

“Australia has the capability and there is growing motivation to transform this waste management concern into a resource recovery success story,” she said.

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant opens

Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant has opened in Victoria in the lead up to the state’s ban on sending e-waste to landfill.

Envirostream Australia has opened its $2 million facility at New Gisborne, north of Melbourne and recycled 240,000 kilograms of batteries last year.

Related stories:

Before the facility was opened, most lithium batteries were sent overseas for recycling. Victoria’s e-waste is projected to rise from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to about 256,000 tonnes by 2035.

The Victorian government announced an election commitment to enact a ban on sending e-waste to landfill, which takes effect on 1 July 2019. More on the government announcement here.

Sustainability Victoria is rolling out $16.5 million e-waste infrastructure development and awareness program to prepare for the ban.

This includes $15 million in grants to Victorian councils and state government entities to upgrade infrastructure at more than 130 collection sites and a $1.5 million awareness campaign to educate Victorians about how to properly dispose of e-waste.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Melburnians are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point, and regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive of one.

Envirostream received $40,000 from Sustainability Victoria to buy equipment to increase the recovery of valuable materials in batteries.

The 2017 Commodity Research Book Battery Raw Material Review says global consumption of lithium carbonate is expected to grow from 184,000 tonnes in 2015 to 534,000 tonnes in 2025, chiefly through the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, e-bikes and energy storage systems.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Kpran said Envirostream Australia is one of the country’s trailblazers in reprocessing electronic waste and is helping to keep valuable resources out of landfills.

“Envirostream is showing how opportunities can be developed in Australia’s resource recovery sector, create jobs in regional communities and capture valuable chemicals, copper, steel, nickel, lithium, other metals and graphene captured so they can be sent to South Korea to be used in new batteries,” Mr Kpran said.

“Only three per cent of Australian batteries are currently recovered. It’s the lowest rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Envirostream Director Andrew McKenzie said recycling batteries at New Gisborne would create five new jobs over the next year and help build Victoria’s recycling capacity.

“We have a nationally coordinated partnership to increase Australia’s low recovery rates of batteries and mobile phones and want to make sure these recoverable resources are not just thrown away or sent offshore for recycling,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We’re working with Planet Ark and MobileMuster to increase used mobile phone and battery recovery and to educate the community about the need to recycle electronic waste onshore.”

“We’re in an increasingly mobile world. Lithium batteries are now the dominant mode of energy storage for domestic and industrial uses, and like other e-waste, their use is growing fast,” he said.

Pictured: Sean O’Malley from Planet Ark, Spiro Kalos from Mobile Muster, Andrew McKenzie and John Polhill from Envirostream and Sustainability Victoria’s Shannon Smyth.

Federal Govt offer waste battery export guidance

The Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy has released a report that offers guidance on whether a hazardous waste permit is required to export waste batteries to another country.

Batteries can increase the risk of toxic chemicals polluting the environment if not disposed of properly.

Related stories:

The report clarifies the Federal Government’s position on the status of batteries as hazardous waste under the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports Act) 1989 (the Act) and Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) (OECD Decision) Regulations 1996 (the OECD Regulations).

Alkaline, nickel-metal hydride, zinc-carbon and zinc chloride waste batteries are considered by the Federal Government to not require an import permit, as long as they are not flammable, explosive or toxic.

These batteries are considered to be in List B for the Basel Convention for international transport of potentially hazardous waste.

The Federal Government said it is the responsibility of the waste exporter to check whether the destination and transit countries require a hazardous waste permit to import waste batteries.

The report can be read here.