Urgent need for regulated Battery Stewardship Scheme

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling for the implementation of a regulated product stewardship program for batteries by 2020 to protect critical infrastructure and maximise resource recovery.

The members of the NWRIC include Australia’s largest waste and resource recovery companies, which recycle everything from household packaging to oils, electronics, organics and much more. This call from the NWRIC comes during National Recycling Week, which brings a welcome focus on the benefits of waste reduction and recycling.

The NWRIC’s member companies are working to create a better waste and recycling system for all Australians. A growing concern of the Council is the increased occurrence of used batteries, and in particular lithium ion batteries, in kerbside and commercial waste and recycling bins.  

When lithium ion batteries are pierced due to mechanical handling they can spontaneously combust, causing fires in waste collection trucks and in recycling facilities.  Fires are a serious danger to the public and the environment, and nobody wants them, especially not the recycling industry.

Industry is also concerned about the growing presence of used batteries in organic recycling bins and contaminating compost with heavy metals such as lead, nickel and cadmium.  

Conversely, lithium is a finite resource, which is highly recyclable if correctly separated. Nickel, lead and cadmium can also be recovered from batteries provided they are collected separately and do not end up in the current kerbside or commercial waste streams.

According to the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative – only 3% of Australia’s batteries are currently recycled, while the vast majority go to landfill (70%). There is also significant stockpiling of used batteries at uncontrolled sites including many service and repair centres dealing with electronics and power tools.

Regulation is now essential given that voluntary efforts by the battery industry have failed to deliver a consumer-friendly national battery recycling scheme. Very low recycling rates means regulatory intervention is the only option.

The NWRIC is calling on the Federal Environment Minister to broaden the National TV and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) to include all types of handheld batteries up to 5kg including single use and rechargeable by no later than 2020. Under the NTCRS, more than 1,800 collection services have been made available to the public. These collection points should now include batteries.

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.

Content of this media release can be attributed to Rose Read, CEO NWRIC.

Media Contact

Rose Read – NWRIC CEO – ceo@nwric.com.au 

About the NWRIC

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) acts as the industry’s national policy setting body. Its core activity is to proactively engage with all of the industry’s key stakeholders to promote solutions to the regulatory challenges facing the sector.

The founding members of the Council – Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Sims Metal Management, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia – represent the majority of the private capital invested into waste management and recycling assets in Australia. NWRIC members encourage and promote best practice and professional conduct; including a commitment achieving to the highest environmental, social and economic outcomes.

While the Council is a national body, it also works proactively with Affiliates, which represent the interests of the industry at a State level. The NWRIC Affiliates represent every Australian jurisdiction except Tasmania. Through collective action, the Council and its State-based partners form a network representing the industry Australia wide.

NWRIC’s state ‘Affiliates’ are; the Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ), the NSW Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association (WCRA), the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), the Waste Recycling Industry Association of South Australia (WRI-SA) and the Waste Recycling Industry Association of WA (WRI-WA) and the Waste Recycling Industry Association of the Northern Territory (WRI-NT).