Proposed funding model for battery stewardship scheme

The Battery Stewardship Council has released a briefing note on the process of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) authorisation for a voluntary battery stewardship scheme.

A Battery Reference Group was established in 2014 to design a scheme for handheld batteries. In 2015, the focus shifted from all handheld batteries to rechargeable batteries only.

However, the Battery Reference Group and the Battery Industry Working Group were reconfigured into the Battery Stewardship Council in 2018 to ensure that both government and industry representatives were involved in the design. The scope is now all batteries that are subject to market failure, with lead acid batteries not included. Following round one of consultation, it is proposed that all handheld batteries will be included in the scheme.

Some of the key scheme features in draft mode are a shared responsibility with government support for expansion in processing and best practice technology, infrastructure funding and improved safety, quality, import controls and enforcement. It also aims to improve the economics of battery recycling, a levy on imports of up to $0.03 per equivalent battery unit and an Equivalent Battery Unit to be set at 24 grams for handheld batteries under five kilograms. Transparency would be assured through a not-for-profit battery stewardship organisation with board oversight and annual benefits.

The briefing note explains that the ACCC process provides a tool for industry to fund the scheme and control free riders. Battery Stewardship Council members are currently in a consultation period, which will be followed by targeted public consultation and then ACCC application.

“One feature of the authorisation model which is important for industry to be aware of, is that the scheme itself remains voluntary in the sense that its operations are essentially self-regulated.

“It is only those activities considered anti-competitive that are ‘regulated’ by the ACCC,” it says.

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ACCC authorisation will provide an exemption from anti-competitive behaviour rules and allow competitors to set a levy or fee and use market levels to control so-called free riders.

The ACCC will then use the details of the scheme design to determine a public benefit from it which can be applied to a number of activities. These include collective bargaining, where two or more competitors negotiate terms and conditions with a customer or supplier, codes of conduct, industry levies which can be used to fund product stewardship arrangement and certain joint ventures or alliances. The latest briefing note says the proposed battery stewardship could potentially encompass all of the above.

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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.

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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.