With potentially 150 million loose or removable batteries being stored in homes across Australia, B-cycle, with backing from Federal, State and Territory Governments, has been launched as a battery recycling scheme with the aim of curbing the number of used batteries being sent to landfill as waste.
The B-cycle Scheme is being administered by the Battery Stewardship Council, Australia’s national battery stewardship organisation, and headed by the council’s CEO, Libby Chaplin.
“The new B-cycle Scheme brings people, businesses and communities together to make sure that no used battery goes to waste, protecting people, our planet, and future battery materials. Now with B-cycle, consumers will be able to access our accredited network of battery drop off points and be confident their batteries are being safely recycled.”
Due to the risk of them catching fire, Ms Chaplin is asking those who bring their batteries for recycling, to use clear sticky tape to cover the terminals of the batteries.
The scheme is designed to encourage Australians to collect end-of-life batteries from around their home, and then take them to convenient locations for drop off and recycling. The types of batteries accepted range from all small loose batteries, such as button batteries and rechargeable batteries, to any battery that can be easily removed, such as those from power tools or even e-bikes. Due to being collected by other stewardship schemes, B-cycle will not be accepting lead acid batteries, nor will it accept those from mobile phones and laptops.
By entering their postcode on B-cycle’s website, Australian consumers will be able to see which of the currently active 2351 drop off sites they will be able to visit to dispose of their used batteries. Large retailers such as Bunnings, Woolworths, Officeworks, and Aldi, will host the collection sites and a further 1200 drop off points are slated to come online within the next few weeks, with Coles joining the list of businesses that will be participating in the program.
While the program will be of great benefit to the environment, recyclers of batteries, such as Lithium Australia subsidiary Envirostream, are interested in the raw materials that can be extracted, especially lithium. Lithium is particularly attractive because of its use in the production of electric car batteries, along with other energy storage systems. Other valuable materials which can be extracted include magnesium, cobalt, and zinc. Harmful substances like cadmium, mercury and lead are removed during the process and discarded safely.
By law product stewardship schemes can be voluntary, co-regulatory or mandatory. Although being run as a voluntary scheme, Ms Chaplin states that B-cycle has managed to sign up all the major players in the Australia market, such as Energizer. While receiving government funding for the scheme, primary funding for it is attained through a levy imposed on the signatories to the scheme. In this case, B-cycle is receiving 2 cents for every 24 grams of product sold in Australia by major companies such as Eveready and Energizer. 24 grams is being used because it is the average weight of one AA battery.
The Australian Government has contributed $1 million dollars towards the scheme.
Trevor Evans, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, stated, “All Australians can help Australia move to a circular economy in which we routinely recycle and reuse our waste resources by taking their used batteries including household batteries, power tool batteries, camera batteries, and e-bike batteries to participating drop off points.”