New sod for recycled alkaline batteries

New research has taken place testing the capabilities of micro-nutrients derived from recycled alkaline batteries.

Perth-based battery developer, Lithium Australia, has trialled a short duration glasshouse testing of fertilisers with added micro-nutrients derived from recycled alkaline batteries.

The company reported in its findings that plant uptake of zinc and manganese was in line with expectations for oxide materials.

According to the ABRI (Australian Battery Recycling Initiative), almost 100 per cent of alkaline battery materials can be recycled and there is a well-established infrastructure for collection and recycling.

“Our use of batteries is growing exponentially as new product types emerge,” the ABRI stated.

“While once we relied on grid based electricity and fossil fuels, we are increasingly turning to batteries to power our every day lives.”

Lithium Australia stated that more than 6000 tonnes of alkaline batteries are consumed nationally each year.

In 2019, Australia’s Battery Stewardship Council estimated that, at the end of their useful life, 97 per cent of those batteries were disposed of in municipal waste streams and reported to landfill.

Lithium Australia is aiming to supply ethically and sustainably sourced materials to the battery industry worldwide. 

As part of its commitment to a circular battery economy, the company recently assessed the use of zinc and manganese recovered from recycled alkaline batteries as micro-nutrient supplements in fertilisers.

The mixed metal dusts used in the recent lithium trial came from the company’s Envirostream Australia spent battery recycling facility in Victoria.

Major Australian organisations including Bunnings, Officeworks and Cleanaway are pick up points for Lithium Australia to sort and shred materials, and then separate cathode and anode active compounds at the battery recycling facility.

In the lithium trials, glasshouse pots were used to assess fertilisers against control samples, including traditional fertilisers.

The company told investors that the results were encouraging enough for the company to commit to the next stage of assessment.

Metal uptake occurred across the samples, with uptake from recycled materials slower in comparison to fertiliser-grade sulphate products.

Larger scale field trials are now being planned to assess alkaline mixed metal dust performance against conventional treatments.

Lithium Australia MD Adrian Griffin said recycling all the metals within spent batteries is something that’s rarely done effectively, which is why it remains a target for the company.

“We have not limited ourselves to recycling only lithium-ion batteries but, rather, have included alkaline batteries in a bid to eliminate all such items from landfill,” he said.

“We’re cognisant of the environmental implications of burying such ‘waste’ and encourage all consumers to join us in recycling every spent battery for the benefit of the environment now for the sake of the future.”

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Europe reaches 44 per cent battery recycling collection rate

Around 44 per cent of batteries sold in Europe were collected for recycling, with Belgium reaching 70.7 per cent, according to new data from the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

In total, the data found around 214,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators were put on the market in 2016, with around 93,000 tonnes collected for recycling, meaning more than twice the amount of batteries that had been put on the market than were collected.

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Luxembourg reached 63.4 per cent collection rate, with Hungary and Lithuania reaching around 53 per cent. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom achieved collection rates of around 45 per cent.

The EU target for collection rates of portable batteries was set at 45 per cent in 2016, meaning 13 EU member states did not reach the target.

Australia has a comparatively low recycling rate of batteries, with the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative finding only three per cent of batteries are recycled and 70 per cent are sent to landfill.

To improve Australia’s battery recycling rates, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.

The NWRIC said such a low recycling rate means regulator intervention is the only option.

“With a combination of sensible regulation, targeted investment and consumer education, almost all of Australia’s used batteries can be safely recycled. This would reduce the risk of fires at recycling facilities and minimise the contamination of compost,” the organisation said in a release.

Australia could be the future of battery recycling – report

Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.

The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.

It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.

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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

Battery Stewardship Council welcomes changes

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has begun designing an industry-led stewardship scheme, which will undertake consultations of the industry and public in the coming months.

The BSC welcomed the plan to fast track the development of a stewardship scheme that aims to result in all types of batteries being recycled in Australia.

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The meeting of Environmental Ministers on 27 April 2018 was called to address concerns in the Australian recycling industry with representatives from federal, state and territory ministers.

Of the 400 million batteries that enter the Australian market each year, less than three per cent of non-car batteries are recycled in Australia, according to a 2014 trend analysis and market assessment report, prepared on behalf of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation.

Toxic chemicals such as nickel, cadmium, alkaline and mercury are often found in batteries, and can be a risk to the environment and human health due to their flammability and the leaching of heavy metals.

The BSC was formed earlier in 2018, combining government and industry bodies, to undertake background work to understanding the markets and barriers to recycling that need to be addressed in a stewardship scheme.

The work of the Battery Stewardship Council is supported by the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) with funding from the QLD Department of Environment and Science.

Chairman of the Battery Stewardship Council Gerry Morvell said Australians have to stop the throw away mentality which wastes a fully recyclable resource and poses a long-term threat to human health and the environment.

“One of our key aims is to facilitate the building of a strong and effective battery recycling industry in Australia. We do not want a repetition of the go-stop issue that has emerged with plastics,” said Mr Morvell.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative Chief Executive Officer Libby Chaplin said there is a confluence of events paving the way for an industry led scheme that could quickly solve this rapidly escalating problem waste.

“Australia has the capability and there is growing motivation to transform this waste management concern into a resource recovery success story,” she said.

ABRI receives prototypes for analysis

The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) earlier this month received prototypes for its latest investigation into new business models for the collection, recycling and disposal of used batteries.

Designs were completed for three options for the NSW Environmental Trust funded project and the prototypes will now be evaluated.

ABRI said the focus is on safe disposal or recycling of small disc-shaped batteries used in a range of products including hearing aids, watches, toys, promotional items, cameras, car keys and remote controllers.

The not-for-profit association estimated around five children presented to an emergency department each week in Australia with a button or coin cell related injury.

The items range from 12 millimetres to 20 millimetres and are considered a safety hazard for small children due to risk of intervention.

The Institute of Sustainable Futures will evaluate the prototypes over the coming months by conducting surveys and workshops to obtain customer feedback.

The 12-month project was undertaken in conjunction with a range of partners including the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), Kidsafe, ACCC and the Hearing Care Industry Association.

ABRI is also working with the Battery Implementation Working Group (BIWG) to advance the creation of a national voluntary stewardship scheme for handheld batteries.

Last week, they said they were in the process of finalising a financial options paper that identifies pros and cons for establishing the scheme and they would meet with the BIWG in February to review the findings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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