A survey by the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) has found that over 107,000 tonnes of used batteries were recycled in Australia or exported for recycling in 2010-11. The vast majority of these were used lead acid batteries (99.8%), with the remainder a mix of alkaline, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries.
Lead acid batteries
The capacity to recycle used lead acid batteries (ULAB) in Australia is increasing. There are five recycling facilities:
• Renewed Metal Technologies (RMT) (Wagga Wagga)
• Australian Refined Alloys (Sydney)
• Hydromet Corporation Ltd (Unanderra)
• Simstar Alloys Pty Ltd (Melbourne)
• V-Resource (Brisbane).
The capacity to reprocess ULAB in Australia is estimated to be around 150,000 tonnes per annum, with potential to expand as the supply of used batteries increases. Most recyclers are not operating at full capacity because they are unable to purchase sufficient quantities of batteries from consumers and collectors.
ABRI promotes the environmentally sound management of used lead acid batteries within Australia. ABRI members are currently working on a national product stewardship plan for used lead acid batteries, with the intention of seeking voluntary certification under the Australian Government’s Product Stewardship Act.
Approximately 455 tonnes of handheld batteries (weighing less than 1kg) were reprocessed in 2010-11. This figure includes small lead acid and NiCd batteries used in power tools, toys and emergency lighting applications, lithium ion batteries from mobile phones and computers, and the widely used alkaline batteries.
Alkaline batteries are currently being processed by AusZinc in Port Kembla. This pilot program will conclude at the end of 2012. Small lead acid batteries are recycled locally while the other battery chemistries are exported for recycling; primarily to Korea.
ABRI is working to achieve a national collection and recycling program for all handheld batteries. This will require government support through regulation under the Product Stewardship Act to ensure that all industry members participate.
For more information:
Dr Helen Lewis