Less than 3 per cent of handheld batteries are currently being recycled.
Australia is lagging behind other countries when it comes to battery recycling, leading experts have warned.
While the European Union integrated a mandatory battery-recycling scheme in 2006, and the United States has mandatory battery recycling schemes in place, Australia has no government policy. As a result, the overall recycling rate for handheld batteries in Australia is less than 3 per cent, despite the fact that 90 per cent of battery materials can be recovered.
“This figure should be embarrassing for policy makers and waste agencies. It is also ironic given the pivotal role that battery brands hold in delivering collection and recycling systems in Europe and North America, ” says John Gertsakis, Chief Sustainability Officer at Infoactiv.
“Electronic waste is growing at three times the rate of general household waste and we are becoming even more dependent on portable and mobile devices, which in turn means that batteries are now an essential component of all cordless electronic equipment,” Mr Gertsakis said.
Batteries are one of the most common sources of household hazardous waste.
“Used batteries pose a real threat to human health and the environment, with some containing toxic acids and heavy metals such as lead and mercury that can contaminate the environment if they end up in surface or groundwater,” he adds.
In the absence of a government policy, manufacturers, brands and retailers are delivering a voluntary national recycling service. Mr Gertsakis commended the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) for leading the charge for a national battery stewardship solution. Founded in 2008, ABRI’s goal is to promote the collection, recycling and safe disposal of all batteries.
ABRI Chief Executive Dr Helen Lewis said ABRI was hopeful that a national battery recycling scheme would soon be a reality in Australia, with a growing appetite for product stewardship suggesting the need for greater cohesion between the industry, government and community to respond to this growing issue.
“ABRI has long been committed to promoting safe and environmentally responsible recycling of all batteries at end of life,” Dr Lewis said.
Mr Gertsakis and Dr Lewis will be discussing their vision for battery recycling at this year’s Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE), taking place from 10 – 11 August at the Sydney Showgrounds.