B-cycle battery recycling scheme under review

b-cycle review

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has announced a review of B-cycle, Australia’s government authorised battery recycling scheme.

The review has been brought forward from 2025 by the BSC board. In a statement, the board said while B-cycle is meeting many of its goals, the current national economic conditions are creating pressures for participants and key partners that were unforeseen when the scheme was designed in 2019.

The consultation process with industry and governments will begin immediately with the intention of completing the review, and preparation of a submission to the ACCC for reauthorisation, before the end of 2024.

Launched in 2022, B-cycle has resulted in the establishment of more than 5000 community drop-off points, recycling of 4.5 million kilograms of batteries and the injection of more than $22 million into the domestic battery recycling industry.

Current challenges and pressures facing participants and key partners include:

  • General downturn in the economy has impacted battery sales and resulted in a reduction of revenue from the levy imposed on imports.
  • There have been significant increases in fuel and labour costs for the collectors, and reductions in commodity prices for recyclers which are supported by B-cycle through a rebate for recycled batteries.
  • Alongside these financial pressures, there has been an increase in battery fires across the country that need to be addressed.

The BSC is already making some minor adjustments to the scheme including the introduction of an increase in rebates for remote areas, introduction of a new category of incidental collections i.e. those that are contamination in other waste streams, and which generally went to landfill, and adjustments to the metropolitan /regional boundaries to recognise population growth and related cost variations.

The BSC has written to Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek seeking regulatory intervention to address the problem of lack of standards for battery imports; free riding, especially through online imports that undermines all industry-led and voluntary product stewardship schemes; and the need for action to deal with lithium-based batteries in particular as they are primarily responsible for fires now being reported at the rate of almost one per day.

The BSC is also actively engaged with the Queensland Government which is working on behalf of all jurisdictions to progress a national approach to the safe collection, handling and recycling/disposal of end-of-life batteries.

The BSC Board decided to bring the review forward ahead of the scheduled 2025 timeline, for the reauthorisation of the scheme by the ACCC.

Key elements of the review include:

  • The nature of regulatory form to address the increasing problem of free riding and recycling of problematic battery chemistries.
  • The need for changes to the levy and rebate structure, to address the financial challenge and more effectively deal with lithium batteries which are largely responsible for fires.
  • Management of button batteries, which are the cause of health impacts when ingested by the very young and vulnerable, and problematic chemistries such as those containing cadmium.
  • Alignment with the Federal Government proposal for a broader e-stewardship scheme for electronic products.

BSC Board Chair, Gerry Morvell said, “We are committed to being an adaptable and consultative scheme that works closely with participants to understand their challenges and make prudent and timely discussions that can meet the moment the sector is experiencing.

“This review is important not just to address potential reform of the existing scheme but to expand its remit for future growth. We strongly look forward to working with our existing participants, key partners and the sector more broadly in the coming months.”

Related stories:

Progress report underlines growth of battery recycling scheme B-cycle

Surge in battery fires prompts warning

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