Envirostream, an owned subsidiary of Lithium Australia has announced that it expects to begin regular recycling of end-of-life battery packs from electric vehicles in coming weeks.
Officeworks has launched a new way for customers to dispose of batteries, pens and markers, as part of upgrades to recycling stations across most of its stores over the next 12 months.
The program was launched by Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans at Officeworks Osborne Park store in Perth, Western Australia.
“Australians can now recycle their batteries, pens and markers at Officeworks, in addition to e-waste, computers and accessories, ink and toner cartridges and mobile phones,” Mr Evans said.
“It is another step forward in Australia transitioning towards a more circular economy, in which we recognise the value of our waste resources and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.”
Mr Evans said every Australian, including all levels of government, has a part to play in the waste and recycling “revolution.”
“I am delighted that Officeworks is playing its part to improve our environment, and assisting customers to dispose responsibly of unwanted technology items for free in their stores at dedicated recycling collection points,” Mr Evans said.
“Recycling old batteries and plastic pens and markers is one very practical and easy thing we can all do.”
According to Mr Evans, Officeworks existing recycling program has already collected more than 10 million ink and toner cartridges and 4800 tonnes of e-waste.
“Officeworks is planning to have battery recycling available in all its stores, and pen recycling in most stores, by the end of 2020,” Mr Evans said.
“Officeworks will recycle batteries in partnership with Envirostream, and pens and markers in partnership with BIC.”
Lithium Australia has invested a further $100,000 in Envirostream Australia, increasing its equity from 18.9 to 23.9 per cent.
According to a Lithium Australia statement, the investment significantly enhances the company’s exposure to the process of collecting and separating spent lithium-ion batteries, a fundamental precursor to battery chemical recycling.
“Lithium Australia has already, at a laboratory scale, successfully recovered metals from separated batteries, used the lithium retrieved to regenerate cathode materials and, from those materials, manufactured coin-cell lithium-ion batteries,” the statement reads.
Lithium Australia Managing Director Arian Griffin said Envirostream is the only company in Australia with the integrated capacity to collect, sort, shred and separate all the components of lithium-ion batteries.
“Lithium Australia’s expanded equity in Envirostream, and acceleration of its research and development program, both anticipate the restructuring of the recycling business to best amalgamate the capabilities of both Lithium Australia and Envirostream,” Mr Griffin said.
“Envirostream’s infrastructure is essential to developing an environmentally responsible solution to the mounting problems spent lithium-ion batteries represent.”
Mr Griffin said by recycling spent lithium-ion batteries, Lithium Australia hopes to meet the ethical, social and governance standards that Australian’s have come to expect.
“The world’s capacity to deal with climate change is also bolstered by the resulting improvements in resource sustainability and reductions in the environmental footprint of portable power,” Mr Griffin said.
“Our further investment in recycling in general, and Envirostream in particular, therefore represents a tremendous opportunity for the company.”
Daryl Moyle, Ecocycle Business Development Manager, speaks with Waste Management Review about the company’s battery recycling capabilities and recent rebrand.
Less than three per cent of all batteries purchased in Australia are recycled, with the rest ending up in landfill. According to Sustainability Victoria, this means over 14,000 tonnes of batteries are destined for landfill each year.
Australia’s performance in this space is poor, with the UK recovering just under 30 per cent and Switzerland recovering 72 per cent. Things are potentially looking up however, with a recent meeting of environment ministers endorsing the work of the Battery Stewardship Council to design a product stewardship scheme.
Battery recycling has many benefits, ranging from keeping harmful materials out of the environment, recovering non-renewable resources and ensuring used batteries don’t start fires.
Australasian mercury recovery and recycling company Ecocycle, formerly CMA Ecocycle, have recently updated their branding to highlight different business divisions, such as Ecobatt.
Daryl Moyle, Ecocycle Business Development Manager, says the revamp comes at a time when the company is continuing to invest in modern equipment and technology, specifically in the sphere of batteries.
“There are so many different products that can be recycled in the sector today, however we focus on specific products and niche markets rather than being a general waste company,” Daryl says.
“The idea is to help customers distinguish our different services, so having a specific brand like Ecobatt will help customers identify us as a battery recycler.”
According to Daryl, the Ecobatt unit is already bringing specific battery safety products to market to minimise environmental risk, including electric vehicle recovery containers to address potential battery fires.
Daryl says batteries are made up of metals, chemicals and other materials that may not seem reusable, however most elements found in batteries can, in fact, be recycled.
Ecocycle recycles all type of batteries to recover metals like lead, cadmium, nickel, steel, zinc, mercury, cobalt, lithium, silver and manganese.
“The more complex the battery chemistry gets, the more difficult it is to extract materials and the more technical the process has to be,” Daryl says.
“We’ve taken a well-researched, systematic approach to the problem, and partnered with world-leading companies to roll out proven technology to manage each step of the battery recycling process – collection, sorting and processing.”
The majority of batteries on the Australian market are alkaline batteries, such as non-rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, and therefore make up the majority of the recyclable battery waste stream. But forecasts reveal that lithium-ion batteries will make up a huge volume in years to come.
“Alkaline batteries, including paper, steel, zinc and manganese, can be easily recycled because the battery chemistry is simple to work with, however lithium ion presents a far more complex recycling problem,” Daryl says.
“Lead-acid batteries, commonly used as car batteries, also have high recycling rates of around 95 per cent. Lead acid batteries are a success story in the recycling world.”
“Ecocycle is constructing a new high-tech battery sorting plant and this will be the first of its kind in Australia and operational before the end of the year.”
The sorting plant will have the capacity to process more than 5000 tonnes of batteries each year, with the ability to identify more than 3000 battery types by chemistry, brand, size and shape.
Daryl says the facility will combine pre-sorting, automated and manual sorting and separate all types of batteries into their respective streams, whether it be alkaline and zinc, which make up the greatest proportion of battery waste, or lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium and button cell batteries.
Despite recent actions, Daryl says a lot of work still needs to be done to develop new technology to make the battery recycling process successful.
“In a world that’s increasingly reliant on batteries, recycling will become an ever-increasing source of raw materials for new batteries production,” Daryl says.
“As a specialist battery recycler, the team at Ecocycle will continue to track new developments in this space.”
CMA Ecocycle is taking its role as an e-waste recycler a step further with what is an Australia-first solution to contain and control electric vehicle fires.
With less than 10 per cent of batteries sold in Australia each year recycled, e-waste recyclers CMA Ecocycle are seeking to reshape the landscape dramatically.
The benefits of recycling batteries go beyond environmental, with a number of financial benefits that can also be gained from doing so. CMA Ecocycle below highlight five of the benefits that come with battery recycling.
- Reduced landfill costs
The greater the volume of waste sent for recycling, the lower the landfill costs a business needs to pay. Victoria’s ban on e-waste to landfill will also encourage more businesses to think twice about sending their batteries to landfill as if the policy is properly policed, businesses could face hefty fines for doing the wrong thing.
- A valued commodity
Lead acid is currently in demand, with lead, acid and plastic all easily and cheaply recycled. At present, most other types of batteries incur a net cost but this could change with more efficient collection programs and advances in recycling technology.
- Reduced future costs
Batteries contain valuable materials such as cobalt, manganese and lithium – finite resources subject to the laws of supply and demand. With demand soaring, dumping batteries removes these materials from the supply side of the equation while recycling them keeps them in circulation. Increasing the supply means lowering resource prices that will flow through to lower new battery prices.
- Reduced recruitment and training costs
Running visible recycling programs is one way of standing out from the crowd and good corporate social responsibility may help retain staff. Companies that rank poorly on environmental performance may face higher staff turnover and this will only lead to higher recruitment and training costs.
Reaping the many financial benefits of battery recycling is easier than you might think.
CMA Ecocycle provides battery collection and recycling solutions ranging from two litre collection buckets up to the truckload.
To get started, all you need to do is call CMA Ecocycle on 1300 32 62 92, or head to their website and fill in a form.
CMA Ecocycle has spent the past 18 months planning a first-of-its-kind battery recycling plant set to become a critical part of Victoria’s e-waste recycling infrastructure network.
Lithium Australia has produced lithium-ion (Li-ION) battery material and batteries from mine waste using its SiLeach process.
Subsidiary Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) carried out the testing at its laboratory and pilot plant in Brisbane, Queensland.
Tri-lithium phosphate from mine waste was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material that was categorised as being of similar quality to standard battery cathode powder.
The SiLeach process eliminates the need for roasting during the lithium extraction process. Roasting involves lithium ore being heated on an industrial scale prior to leaching and is a costly, time consuming and environmentally impactful process.
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In contrast to this, SiLeach allows the company to produce battery-grade lithium material from non-brine mineral resources at a cost similar to that of lithium-in-brine (LIB) producers, but without the environmental risks and high costs associated with roasting and evaporation ponds.
SiLeach can recover these battery-grade material from rejected mine waste including low-grade lepidolite mica feedstock.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin highlighted its ability to simplify the lithium extraction process.
“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce LIB cathode materials,” he said.
“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide — the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020.
It has called on the Federal Environment Minister to broaden the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all types of handheld batteries up to five kilograms.
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Under the NTCRS, more than 1800 collection services are available to the public which could be used to include batteries, according to NWRIC.
Lithium ion batteries pose hazards in kerbside recycling bins, potentially leading to spontaneous combustion if pierced due to mechanical handling in waste collection trucks and recycling facilities.
Lithium, nickel, lead and cadmium are finite resource in waste batteries that can be highly recyclable if correctly separated.
According to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative only three per cent of batteries are recycled, with 70 per cent being sent to landfill.
NWRIC said that 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,” NWRIC said in a release.
The Australian Council of Recycling has released a 10-point plan for results-based recycling, which has been submitted to the consultation process for the new National Waste Policy.
It aims to assist the industry and government reaching the goal of 100 per cent recovery of recyclable, compostable, reusable or recoverable materials and their diversion from landfill.
The plan details public policy measures such as reforming waste levies to focus on increasing recycling rates with an exemption of recycling residuals across each state.
It also recommends a $1.5 billion investment of waste disposal levy funds into recycling, with transparency and allocation to resource recovery objectives. This funding could potentially be used to invest in recyclate market development and commercialisation projects, improving infrastructure and technology used for sorting and reprocessing, investment into data collection for decision making, and investment into the cost of kerbside recycling.
A landfill ban for batteries, e-waste, and other potentially hazardous materials is recommended in the report as a way of making end of life producer responsibility the way to pay for recycling.
It also recommends a national recycling infrastructure audit, development of new metrics for waste, recycling and resource recovery activity beyond tonnes diverted, the examination of trends and how to optimise parallel container deposit schemes to build a sustainable domestic recycling sector through national industry development.
The plan includes the introduction of a resource recovery incentive for industry with different tax levels for virgin and recycled material in packaging and road construction.
Improving contestability in the recycling sector, creating a dedicated Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding initiative to support recyclate materials collection and sorting, and using more energy recovered from residual waste to generate sustainable energy are key measures to improve recycling according to the report.
The plan also outlines standardising recycling methods and improving government approaches to planning, regulation and enforcement.
To read the plan, click here.