Australia lags behind in battery recycling, industry experts say
Australia is lagging behind other countries when it comes to battery recycling, posing a threat to human health and the environment, experts have revealed.
As noted by John Gertsakis, chief sustainability officer at Infoactiv, electronic waste is growing at three times the rate of general household waste — with our dependence on mobile devices continuing to grow.
“Used batteries pose a real threat to human health and the environment, with some containing toxic acids and heavy metals such as lead and mercury that can contaminate the environment if they end up in surface or ground water,” Gertsakis said.
“Despite these risks, Australia still lacks a national recycling scheme for non-rechargeable batteries, lagging behind its international counterparts, with the European Union having integrated a mandatory battery recycling scheme in 2006 and the United States also having mandatory battery recycling schemes in place.”
Gertsakis said the overall recycling rate for handheld batteries in Australia is less than 3%, despite the fact that 90% of battery materials can be recovered. “This figure should be embarrassing for policymakers and waste agencies,” he said.
Gertsakis has, however, commended the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) for leading the charge for a national battery stewardship solution. ABRI Chief Executive Dr Helen Lewis said the association is hopeful that a national battery recycling scheme will soon be a reality, with a growing appetite for product stewardship suggesting the need for greater cohesion between the industry, government and community to respond to this growing issue.
“We are actively supporting efforts by the industry to establish a voluntary stewardship program for rechargeable batteries,” Dr Lewis said. “However, we believe that some form of co-regulation will be needed to ensure that manufacturers and distributors of single-use batteries take responsibility for the products they place on the market.”
“The time has come for focused and enduring action that connects the principles of product stewardship principles with funding from manufacturers and retailers to ensure that batteries do not end up in landfill, and that we recover resources that can be re-used in new products,” Gertsakis added.
Gertsakis and Dr Lewis will be discussing their vision for battery recycling at this year’s Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE), alongside Peter Brisbane, head of product stewardship programs for the Department of the Environment; Rowan Hodge, general manager of Battery World; Janet Leslie, sustainability manager at Canon; Will LeMessurier, managing director of MRI EWaste Recycling Specialists; and Brett Buckingham, director of consumers services – technology and environment at Panasonic Australia.
AWRE will be held from 10–11 August 2016 at Sydney Showground. To view the full seminar program and book your seminar pass, visit http://www.awre.com.au/awre-wmaa-2016-seminar-program/.
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