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B-cycle battery recycling scheme to be reviewed

Manufacturing News

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) has announced a review of B-cycle, Australia’s government authorised battery recycling scheme, in the wake of unforeseen pressures facing industry.

The review has been brought forward from 2025 by the BSC Board as, while B-cycle is meeting many of its goals, the current national economic conditions are creating pressures for participants that were unforeseen when the Scheme was designed in 2019.

A consultation process with industry and governments will commence immediately with the intention of completing the review, and preparation of a submission to the ACCC for reauthorisation, before the end of this year.

BSC Board Chair Gerry Morvell said: “We are committed to being an adaptable and consultative scheme that works closely with participants to understand their challenges and make prudent and timely discussions that can meet the moment the sector is experiencing.

“This review is important not just to address potential reform of the existing Scheme but to expand its remit for future growth. We strongly look forward to working with our existing participants, key partners and the sector more broadly in the coming months.”

Launched in 2022, B-cycle has resulted in the establishment of over 5,000 community Drop off points, recycling of 4.5 million kilograms of batteries and the injection of over $22 million into the domestic battery recycling industry.

Challenges and pressures facing participants not foreseen when ther scheme was designed include:

  • The general downturn in the economy has impacted on battery sales and resulted in a reduction of revenue from the levy imposed on imports
  • There have also been very significant increases in fuel and labour costs for the collectors, and reductions in commodity prices for recyclers which are supported by B-cycle through a rebate for recycled batteries
  • And there has been a dramatic increase in battery fires across the country that need to be addressed.

The BSC is already making some minor adjustments to the Scheme including the introduction of an increase in rebates for remote areas, introduction of a new category of incidental collections which generally went to landfill, and adjustments to metropolitan /regional boundaries to recognise population growth.

The BSC has written to the federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek seeking regulatory intervention to address the problem of lack of standards for batteries imports; free riding especially through online imports which undermines all industry-led and voluntary product stewardship schemes; and the need for action to deal with the lithium-based batteries in particular as they are primarily responsible for fires now being reported at the rate of almost one per day.

The BSC is also actively engaged with the Queensland government which is working on behalf of all jurisdictions to progress a national approach to the safe collection, handling and recycling/disposal of end-of-life batteries.

The BSC Board decided to bring the review forward ahead of the scheduled 2025 timeline, for the reauthorisation of the Scheme by the ACCC. Key elements of the review include:

  • The nature of regulatory form to address the increasing problem of free riding and recycling of problematic battery chemistries
  • The need for changes to the levy and rebate structure, to address the financial challenge and more effectively deal with lithium batteries which are largely responsible for fires
  • Management of button batteries, which are the cause of severe health impacts when ingested by the very young and vulnerable, and problematic chemistries such as those containing cadmium
  • And alignment with the federal government proposal for a broader e-stewardship scheme for electronic products.

Picture: B-Cycle

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