NWRIC welcomes BSC scheme but importers must sign up

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has welcomed the ACCC authorisation of the Battery Stewardship Council’s national battery recycling scheme, however cautions that with major battery importers yet to sign up to the voluntary scheme, its efficacy is in doubt.

Read moreNWRIC welcomes BSC scheme but importers must sign up

NWRIC calls for national battery recycling program by end of 2020

Following the release of the Product Stewardship Act review, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the Federal Government to ensure a comprehensive national battery recycling program is in place, and funded by all battery brands by the end of 2020.

Read moreNWRIC calls for national battery recycling program by end of 2020

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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Lithium Australia seeks international recovery patent

The International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation has published two patent applications from Lithium Australia.

The applications detail Lithium Australia’s lithium phosphate recovery process, which extracts the material from lithium-bearing silicates and solutions.

According to a Lithium Australia statement, the patents seek to protect intellectual property derived from the company’s research and development activities.

“Intellectual property is managed by way of formal patent processes to retain ‘know-how’ as trade secrets, with the support of specialist legal practitioners,” the statement reads.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said the technology improves the sustainability of, and reduces the environmental impacts associated with, the manufacture, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.

“Importantly, these technologies can facilitate vertical integration within the battery supply chain, potentially reducing the number of process steps involved, and lowering costs for consumers,” Mr Griffin said.

“The ability to integrate metal recovery from lithium-ion batteries and regenerate cathode materials represents a major advance for the battery industry as a whole.”

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VIC EPA extends battery plant consultation period

The Victorian EPA has extended its consultation period for a battery recycling plant works approval, due to a high level of local interest.

The consultation period has been extended to 52 days, with two extra information sessions held in January.

The development proposal, received from Chunxing Corporation, seeks to recycle the material into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead each year.

The proposal estimates 98 per cent of the lead, plastic and electrolyte (sulfuric acid) in batteries will be recycled.

According to the Chunxing Corporation application, Australia generates roughly 150,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries a year, most of which is sent to four existing facilities.

The application highlights that of the four facilities, only one conducts secondary lead smelting to produce lead product.

“We believe such incomplete ‘recycling’ is unsustainable, and vulnerable to overseas demand and policy changes, similar to the export of kerbside recycling, which collapsed after China introduced its China National Sword Policy,” the application reads.

“We also see this low penetration of ‘full recycling’ in the market as an opportunity.”

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VIC EPA to assess battery recycling plant proposal

The Victorian EPA is assessing a works approval application for a battery recycling plant with the capacity to process 50,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries each year.

The development proposal, received from Chunxing Corporation, seeks to recycle the material into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead each year.

The proposal estimates 98 per cent of the lead, plastic and electrolyte (sulfuric acid) in batteries will be recycled.

According to the Chunxing Corporation application, Australia generates roughly 150,000 tonnes of used lead acid batteries a year, most of which is sent to four existing facilities.

The application highlights that of the four facilities, only one conducts secondary lead smelting to produce lead product.

“We believe such incomplete ‘recycling’ is unsustainable, and vulnerable to overseas demand and policy changes, similar to the export of kerbside recycling, which collapsed after China introduced its China National Sword Policy,” the application reads.

“We also see this low penetration of ‘full recycling’ in the market as an opportunity.”

Chunxing Corporation intends to engage in ‘full recycling’ to produce lead ingot, a valuable commodity that is returned back to battery manufacturers.

“They plan to secure significant market volumes of used lead acid batteries that are currently partially processed and sent for export, and believe the extra market capacity our plant will provide will lead to the federal Department of the Environment an Energy rejecting some export permits in favour of in-country full recycling options,” the application reads.

Chunxing Corporation’s proposed plant will use a six step process including physical separation, waste acid processing for value added fertiliser, smelting and desulfurisation.

The EPA will assess the proposal against all relevant environmental policies and guidelines and consider any potential environmental and human health impacts that could result from the proposed development, including, but not limited to, air emissions, noise and residual waste management.

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ACOR calls for battery product stewardship

Handheld batteries are a major fire risk in established recycling facilities and immediate action is needed to remove them from the general recycling stream, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel is calling on environment ministers to establish a national battery product stewardship and recycling scheme, with robust manufacturer participation.

“As a result of the digital age, battery consumption is going up by about 300 per cent per year and millions of post-consumer batteries are ending up where they don’t belong, which causes not only environmental harm but increasingly fires and occupational health and safety risks,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Analysis by ACOR shows that a national battery recycling scheme would cost less than one per cent of a typical battery’s retail price, and that seems a very small contribution for manufacturers to make to ensure better environmental and safety outcomes.”

According to Mr Shmigel, only three per cent of batteries are recycled in Australia, compared to 70 per cent in Europe, which has long-established, government-mandated schemes.

Mr Shmigel added that many batteries end up in household kerbside recycling bins as a result of “wishcycling.”

“Batteries that wrongly end up in our industry’s established materials recovery facilities for packaging or scrap metal recycling operations are known to explode as a result of heat and pressure from normal operations,” Mr Shmigel said.

“We are now consistently experiencing the operational and cost impacts, and should not wait to see somebody hurt.”

Outside selected retailer initiatives, Mr Shmigel said there is no alternative, comprehensive or accessible way for Australians to present used batteries for recycling.

“What we have in Australia is not recovery but malarkey. For nearly a decade, there’s been chain-dragging from major battery manufacturers and governments on setting up national programs, where all consumers can easily recycle their used batteries, just as they can their computers, TVs and mobile phones,” Mr Shmigel said.

Mr Shmigel said battery recycling solutions were put forward by industry and NGOs at the last two Meetings of Environment Ministers, however no substantive decisions were made.

“In the meantime, insurance premiums in our industry are known to have increased by five-fold per year in some cases due to increased fire risk,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Because we have very limited to no control of batteries coming into our facilities, that’s a totally inappropriate cost shift when producers are not taking appropriate responsibility.”

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Ecocycle unveils new branding

Ecocycle, formerly CMA Ecocycle, has updated its branding to highlight different business units, which will include Ecobatt and Ecoe-waste.

Ecocycle specialises in recycling batteries, lighting and e-waste, as well as mercury-containing waste from the dental, medical, mining, gas, and petro-chemical industries.

Ecocycle Business Development Manager Daryl Moyle said the revamp comes as the company continues to invest in modern equipment and technology.

“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,” Mr Moyle said.

“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.”

Mr Moyle said Ecocycle were investing in a battery recycling plant that will be the first of its kind in Australia.

“It will bring new solutions to the world of recycling in a big way,” Mr Moyle said.

“The company is also investing in new downstream sorting machinery for e-waste that will transform sorting processes, as well as safety equipment specifically designed for dealing with lithium ion batteries.”

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