Sustainability Victoria commissioned consulting group MS2 to develop the public policy and business case for battery stewardship in Australia. The scope of the study was ‘handheld batteries’, defined as batteries weighing up to 1kg or so. The report has now been published and can be downloaded here.
The report concluded that handheld batteries satisfy the objects and criteria of the Product Stewardship Act for designating products potentially subject to product stewardship. Key considerations include the potential to significantly reduce environmental impacts, the presence of hazardous substances and the potential for resource recovery.
A number of voluntary and regulatory options were considered for a battery stewardship program. The report concluded that ‘co-regulation’ would likely prove the most balanced approach, increasing battery recovery while minimising the impacts of ‘free riders’. A co-regulatory approach provides the necessary regulatory underpinning to ensure that liable parties are held responsible in proportion to their impacts. Key performance requirements including recovery and convenience targets could be incorporated, yet stakeholders would have a variety of options available for delivering program results and minimising costs.
The report includes six recommendations based on the research and stakeholder consultation:
1. Support including handheld batteries in the ‘product priority list’ for the Act Product Stewardship Act
2. Support producer responsibility for program operation and financing
3. Engage retailers currently collecting batteries in the development of any potential national approach
4. Ensure that battery recycling is convenient and accessible for consumers
5. Ensure verifiable public reporting of program results
6. Ensure that program parameters are clearly defined before setting any program targets.