In the driver’s seat at EcoBatt


EcoBatt battery collector Robbie Walker takes WMR along for the ride as he picks up batteries from supermarkets and clients across Victoria.

Truck driver Robbie Walker says there’s never a dull day with “so much to see, great people to meet and a job to do” when on the road for EcoBatt.

He and his colleagues collect batteries from around Australia for delivery to a Recycal automated sorting facility, where they are processed and components recovered for reuse and recycling. It’s a flexible job with many and varied clients. It’s also a job Robbie’s proud to be doing.

“We don’t want to see batteries going to landfill. There is no need for it now,” he says. “We recycle and protect our environment so my grandkids can enjoy this planet. We make it a better place for future generations to play.”

Robbie chooses to leave early in the morning for his country runs to miss the worst of the traffic and get back to the depot for unloading and weighing “at a reasonable time to knock off for the day”. He’s usually on site about 7am for his first pick-up.

“This morning I left early to head to Shepparton and worked my way back from there. I did battery collections from seven of the supermarkets in that area, did an amalgam container changeover, picked up some litho [lithium] plates, picked up some X-rays in wheelie bins from Nagambie and Seymour, a green Nally [big bin] Bin of e-waste in Seymour; with more battery collections along the route home.

“In total I did 15 battery collections for the day with the other pick-ups in the same trip. Some days we can get 25-plus battery collections done in a day. On other days it’s less. It really depends on the distances we have to travel, what else we need to pick up and the population of the area we are working in.”

Robbie says that in more remote areas he sometimes leaves two or more barrels for a store owner to change out to save a special trip. He says it’s often surprising to see what’s inside when you open the door to a battery cabinet. 

“One in Eltham the other day had over 150 kilograms and was overflowing, with batteries sitting lose inside the cabinet. The store owner explained that a family had emptied their home stockpile when the Mum of the house saw the battery recycling bin at the local supermarket. In some we could only have 40 kilos in them, but normally we see around 60-80 kilos in the barrels. 

“You see all sorts of things like calculators, electric toothbrushes, coffee cups and plastic bags, but as we promote it more and educate the public and chat with the staff on site, it is getting better and better.

EcoBatt“We think once a government campaign continues to roll out in 2022 and the public relations promotions kick in, we will see things improve as the community gets behind the project and recycles their batteries.”

While batteries are the main focus, EcoBatt has country clients with lighting waste, coffee pods, X-rays, dental amalgam, e-waste and metals, which are also picked up during Robbie’s daily battery run.

“It makes things so much more efficient,” he says. 

The company has specially designed five-tonne trucks with curtain sides and a large tailgate loader, which have been fitted out to carry the full range of containers, bins, and drums required for particular waste collections. 

“They’re comfortable, safe and all fitted with a specialised aerosol suppression unit to detect and extinguish any threat of fire,” Robbie says. “You have the confidence and comfort of knowing you are well protected, as are the communities we work in.”

EcoBatt has a strong focus on safety and “clean, green recycling”.

“We don’t just have to think about the company we work for but for the clients we represent as well,” Robbie says. “We want them to have a great experience. Service is something that is promoted to us as drivers every day. 

“We have to be well presented, in company uniform, and our trucks regularly cleaned to present the best image possible, which is so important to the group. The trucks are well sign written and company-owned, with company drivers. We take pride in all we do.”

Drivers use an app that logs their route daily and provides instructions for sites. Photos are taken at each site, before moving to the next pick-up.

“It’s now easy to use but was challenging for us, as truck drivers, at the start to understand the importance of it to the company,” Robbie says of the app.

“Hard to teach an old dog new tricks I told the boss – but once you get to know how to use it, it saves us heaps of time and helps with efficiency.”

Drivers were given input into the app’s development. On two occasions IT staff went on the road with Robbie to “see the challenges”. He says that after 18 months of working in the field the app is a “great system that works really well”. 

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