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.