Why recycle batteries?
Batteries provide a portable power source for many of the products that have become important to our way of life; from cars and boats through to laptop computers, mobile phones and hearing aids. Like all manufactured products, however, batteries have impacts on the environment at every stage of their life cycle. The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) was established in 2008 to promote effective product stewardship for batteries to reduce these impacts.
There are a number of reasons why batteries should be recovered and recycled rather than being sent to landfill:
In 2010 ABRI commissioned Warnken ISE to develop a mass balance for batteries in Australia.
The aim was to develop a better understanding of battery stocks and flows, in particular:
The study looked at all categories of batteries – handheld, automotive and industrial. It estimated that around 345 million handheld batteries (batteries weighing less than 1kg) are consumed each year. This category includes all of the common household batteries, such as AAA, AA and D alkaline and carbon zinc batteries, as well as more specialised batteries for laptops, mobile phones, power tools, MP3 players, hearing aids etc. Only 6% of these by weight and 4% by count are recycled at present. The majority are disposed to landfill at the end of their life (around 183 million), or informally ‘stockpiled’, i.e. stored or located in electrical and electronic products that are no longer in use (69 million).
The situation is quite different for the larger automotive batteries. Australians consume around 6 million of these each year, and approximately 87% are recycled responsibly (by weight). The remainder are being ‘informally stockpiled’ (e.g. left to accumulate in houses, garages or businesses), ‘rebirthed’ (inappropriately re-branded for resale) or illegally exported. While there is a well-established recovery infrastructure for lead acid batteries, the report highlighted some important gaps, including collection of batteries from remote and regional areas.