ABRI is seeking agreement from all governments under the National Waste Policy (NWP), to develop a national, streamlined approach to hazardous waste regulations governing used batteries. This is necessary to support increased recycling of batteries by increasing transparency and easing the regulatory burden on businesses that are involved in their collection or transport.
One of the objectives of the NWP is ‘A comprehensive nationally integrated system for the identification, classification, treatment, disposal and monitoring of hazardous substances and waste that aligns with international obligations.’
Strategy 12 of the policy aims to achieve ‘consistent classifications for hazardous wastes … supported by nationally consistent data collection and tracking systems’.
This is not currently the case for batteries. Used lead acid batteries (ULAB), for example, are treated differently under hazardous waste regulations in each state and territory. This has two important impacts:
- it is difficult for businesses involved in the storage or transport of ULAB to understand their regulatory obligations and to ensure that all of their agents and sub-contractors comply with requirements
- the different regulations applying to ULAB at a national, state or territory level adds unnecessarily to
The current situation for used lead acid batteries
In most jurisdictions a storage license is required for ULAB but regulations vary in a number of ways. This includes:
- how batteries are classified, i.e. whether they are mentioned specifically or covered under general categories such as ‘lead’ or ‘solid waste’ (and this is sometimes open to interpretation by government officials)
- the quantity of batteries that must be stored before a license is required, i.e. the threshold for regulation.
Waste transporters require a license in all jurisdictions, although there is scope for mutual recognition of a transport license issued by another state or territory. Two jurisdictions exempt the transport of small quantities (200 kg in NSW and the ACT).
Waste tracking requirements also vary. Interstate transport of ULAB needs to be tracked according to the requirements of the NEPM for the Movement of Controlled Waste Between States and Territories, but there are differences in the type of waste tracking systems (on-line or docket). Intrastate transport of ULAB does not need to be tracked in NSW, WA or NT but it does in all other jurisdictions.
The need for national harmonisation
ABRI is advocating a nationally consistent framework for the regulation of controlled wastes including used batteries. This would ideally involve:
- a common classification number for ULAB (D220)
- a shared on-line tracking system for intrastate and interstate transport
- a common threshold for a storage or transport license
- a single contact point within each government for all queries about licenses and waste tracking
- enforcement of regulations by the responsible department to ensure ‘a level playing field’.
This would reduce the significant business costs associated with regulatory compliance and reporting. It would also improve the ability of government agencies to monitor the collection, storage and transport of hazardous wastes including ULAB.
A submission was sent to the Australian Government and all state and territory environment ministers in March 2012. For more information please contact Helen Lewis on firstname.lastname@example.org.