AusZinc (also trading as AusBatt) today announced that their pilot collection, sorting and recycling program for used alkaline batteries in Port Kembla would conclude at the end of 2012. Existing stocks will continue to be processed but the company is no longer accepting used batteries for recycling.
This is the result of a strategic review of the business, which concluded that battery recycling is outside the scope of the company’s future business strategy. In addition, the level of receipts has averaged just 40 tonnes per year and fell by 45% in 2011. With no legislative imperative for recycling of handheld batteries, this volume is too low to support a viable recycling business.
Commercial viability requires a ‘gate fee’ to cover costs and produce a reasonable return on investment. The low collection volumes (<1% of the estimated market of discarded batteries) and increasingly competitive gate fees do not support future investment.
The company has stated that the recycling of batteries is an important and growing issue that needs to be addressed. However, significant strategic, legislative and commercial barriers must be overcome at an industry level to provide a suitable environment for the investment required.
Background to the pilot recycling program
Alkaline and carbon zinc batteries are the most commonly used handheld batteries in Australia, representing approximately 80% of the batteries consumed, with about 6,000 tonnes per annum disposed to landfill. These batteries contain recyclable steel, zinc and manganese.
AusZinc recognised that these materials had the potential to be recovered and recycled. Council and EPA approvals were obtained to collect, sort, store and process trial volumes of up to 400t of batteries under strictly monitored license conditions.
AusZinc has been receiving used batteries since May 2008; and collection of all chemistries has totalled 148 tonnes – averaging 40t/year. AusZinc has applied its existing technology to the recycling of alkaline batteries with recovery of metals and other components from the used cells. Approximately 31% of the batteries collected have been processed and recycled to date, with additional processing campaigns planned for 2012 to eliminate remaining stocks.
AusZinc has made a considerable commitment to battery recycling over the past four years, through market and business development; obtaining legislative approvals; sorting, storage and processing; air and product sampling and analysis as well as the marketing of recycled components. The company will continue to process its remaining stocks of batteries and to test emissions from the process as required under its EPA license.
Employees involved in the process will be redeployed to other duties and no job losses are expected as a result of this change.
Background to AusZinc
AusZinc produces zinc alloys, zinc metal and zinc chemicals including toning alloys for hot dip and continuous galvanizing, die-casting alloys and various grades of zinc oxide for fertilizer and other applications.
In 2010 their parent company Delta was fully acquired by Valmont Industries, a US-based market-leading manufacturer of steel products for infrastructure and agriculture.
Enquiries: Alex Spillett (02) 4275 8801