Lighting Council Australia relaunch product stewardship scheme

Lighting Council Australia (LCA) is relaunching the industry-led battery recycling program, Exitcycle, with support from the Queensland Government to improve the recycling rates of emergency and exit lights.

The voluntary product stewardship initiative developed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and LCA was launched in 2015 as a 12-month pilot project to provide guidance on issues impacting recycling batteries from metropolitan, regional and remote areas.

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Commercial users commit to recycling at least 95 per cent of their end of life emergency and exit lighting batteries as part of the program, while facilitators commit to promoting the scheme to users of these batteries.

LCA National Marketing and Environment Manager Roman Gowor said the program brings industry, government, and community together to improve environmental outcomes, noting that there are approximately 30 million emergency and exit lights across the country.

“The majority of the green-emergency lights we see across all buildings are powered by a combination of older battery technologies, which often use cadmium, nickel metal hydride or sealed lead acid,” Mr Gowor said.

“In the coming years, newer generation batteries will use more sustainable components, however multiple sectors—government, industry and end users— must work together to find the best way of increasing recycling rates.”

The program will be launched at the Queensland Parliament House in Brisbane, with attendees including recyclers, government officials and the lighting industry.

“The Exitcycle approach is successful because it is very well suited at addressing the specific waste issue,” Mr Gowor said.

“Unlike a great proportion of batteries used across the economy, emergency and exit lights are not typically used in households and, by law, can only be serviced by electrical contractors. The Exitcycle program is more targeted than other programs and focuses on electricians and facility and building managers,” he said.

China approves greener lithium extraction method

China has approved a new method of extracting lithium in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, according to Xinhua News.

Professor of the institute of environmental science and engineering in Nanchang University Qiu Zumin told Xinhua News the lithium extraction technology has passed the national scientific and technological achievements appraisal. It is expected to replace China’s current methods of extracting lithium, which have been blamed for creating significant amounts of waste with low profitability.

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Lithium batteries are used in most electronics, from mobile phones to computers, to electronic cars. Currently, China imports 80 per cent of its lithium carbonate.

Xinhua News says China’s traditional methods produce 30 to 40 tonnes of waste to produce one tonne of lithium carbonate, while also being expensive to treat.

The new methods has been jointly developed by the Jiangxi Haohai Lithium Energy, Nanchang University and other institutions to separate all the elements in lithium micas.

Chair of Haohai Peng Guiyong told Xinhua News the company plans to invest one billion yuan ($205 million AUD) to build a production line with an annual capacity of 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate.

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.

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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.

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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.