Australia's environment ministers agree to address battery recycling

MRI (Australia) Pty Ltd

Monday, 31 July, 2017

Commonwealth, state and territory environment ministers met in Melbourne last week to progress work on several environmental matters, including battery stewardship.

Many batteries contain hazardous substances that have the potential to harm people and the environment, yet Australia is yet to provide a national collection and recycling scheme for small, handheld batteries. With only 5% of handheld rechargeable batteries in Australia being recycled, there is great scope to create such a program.

Australia’s environment ministers have now agreed to consider stewardship approaches at their next meeting. This may include regulatory options to underpin industry-driven voluntary schemes, as well as other options put forward by states and territories.

The need for a National Rechargeable Battery Recycling Program is recognised by several stakeholders, as demonstrated by the work of the Battery Industry Working Group and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Their two-successful pilot collection and recycling trials in Toowoomba and Brisbane, in which MRI E-cycle Solutions was the lead contractor, highlighted the community’s willingness to recycle batteries.

The managing director of MRI E-cycle Solutions, Will LeMessurier, noted that major steps have been taken over the last 12 months to engage battery brands and other stakeholders in designing a national solution. The ministers’ agreed statement to consider regulatory options to underpin industry-driven voluntary schemes is thus an important step forward.

“Industry is very close to achieving a national solution for battery recycling in Australia through the collaborative approach taken with government,” said LeMessurier.

“Several major battery brands, retailers and the waste industry are poised to make battery stewardship a reality, but it’s important that government work with industry to develop a solution that prevents free-riders undermining the stewardship efforts of responsible producers and suppliers.”

The environment ministers have agreed to continue working with the battery industry and acknowledged the work of the Queensland government for its leadership and funding commitments to date. Their agreed statement can be found here.

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