Environment Ministers back urgent action to prevent battery fires

environment minister battery fires

New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria will lead action on reforms to Australia’s product stewardship arrangements for all batteries.

At the Environment Minister’s Meeting in Sydney on 21 June, ministers agreed to accelerate work towards reforming the product stewardship arrangements for all batteries, acknowledging that intervention is needed through the entire lifecycle of a battery or battery-powered device.  This includes looking at options to improve the design, packaging, importation, storage and disposal of batteries. 

A key focus will be on creating financial incentives to ensure the safe disposal of all types of batteries, reducing the chances of batteries ending up in bins and landfills.

Ongoing fires and emergency situations caused by batteries, notably lithium-ion batteries embedded inside a range of devices, show the critical importance of acting quickly to protect lives and property.

“Fire and Rescue NSW attended almost 300 lithium-ion battery fires in 2023 alone, but we know that this is just a fraction of the true number of battery fires,” said New South Wales Environment Minister Penny Sharpe.  “Ministers from around the country agreed it is time for urgent action to protect our communities.

“New South Wales is proud to work with Victoria and Queensland on a regulatory approach for batteries, to drive better design and disposal.

“When batteries are not stored or disposed of properly, they can threaten lives and cause extensive damage to properties and waste infrastructure.”

New South Wales will immediately start work on a draft Regulatory Impact Statement that will assess the costs and benefits of product stewardship models. It will also consider how reforms would relate to existing product stewardship schemes, such as the B-Cycle scheme.

New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland will also start work on model legislation that will enable governments to quickly identify the best reform option to reduce the risk of fires, support Australia’s battery recycling sector, and deliver the most cost-effective and efficient approach for businesses and consumers.

Ministers acknowledged work already done by Queensland on safe battery disposal and discussed the issue of managing the risks of batteries, including embedded battery devices, as a matter of priority. 

The ministers also agreed to seek better and easier ways to stop or deal with waste from tyres and packaging.

Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, who chaired the meeting, said she was heartened by the strong environmental leadership of environment ministers in their states and territories, and their agreement to ambitious national targets.

“We’re working together to stop lithium batteries ending up in landfill and causing dangerous fires. We’re making recycling easier for families and businesses. We’re driving a circular economy in partnership with governments and businesses,” Plibersek said.

The full communique was agreed to by all Ministers and can be found here.

For more information, visit: www.epa.nsw.gov.au

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