All batteries are now included on the Federal Environment Minister’s ‘product list’, which identifies classes of products considered for an accreditation process or regulation under the Product Stewardship Act.
Handheld batteries have been on the list since 2013 and the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative reports that work has commenced on developing a national stewardship scheme for rechargeable batteries under five kilograms.
The Government has acknowledged that appropriate management responses will vary, depending on the battery type, but it has pointed to large storage batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles and for homes becoming more prevalent and likely to see a significant increase in the number entering the waste stream in coming years. ABRI says the focus remains on lithium-ion and emerging battery technologies that don’t have strong end markets.
Australia is a signatory to the Basel Convention, which defines what is meant by ‘hazardous’ waste. The Department of the Environment cites figures that show hazardous waste generation doubled over a five-year period to 2006/07 (from 0.64 million tonnes to 1.9 million a year), but now appears to have stabilised, with resource recovery from waste increasing to 22.7 million tonnes.
The nature of the waste stream has also changed. The Government admits that more complex products are now a significant component of waste going to landfill and this is affecting Australia’s capacity to recover materials.
The National Waste Policy, which is aimed to set waste management and resource recovery direction, is in place until 2020. It focuses on six areas to provide focus to the work across jurisdictions, build on current directions and complement existing activity, as well as ensure Australia complies with its international obligations:
Taking responsibility – shared responsibility for reducing the environmental, health and safety footprint of products and materials across the manufacture-supply- consumption chain and at end-of-life.
Improving the market – efficient and effective Australian markets operate for waste and recovered resources, with local technology and innovation being sought after internationally.
Pursuing sustainability – less waste and improved use of waste to achieve broader environmental, social and economic benefits.
Reducing hazard and risk – reduction of potentially hazardous content of wastes with consistent, safe and accountable waste recovery, handling and disposal.
Tailoring solutions – increased capacity in regional, remote and Indigenous communities to manage waste and recover and reuse resources.
Providing the evidence – access by decision-makers to meaningful, accurate and current national waste and resource recovery data and information to measure progress and educate and inform the behaviour and the choices of the community.
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