The ACCC has authorised the Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) to establish and operate the scheme for managing end-of-life (EOL) batteries.
The scheme will impose a levy on batteries at their point of sale, with the funds generated used to subsidise their collection and recycling.
This levy will also provide a commercial incentive to divert batteries from landfill, a positive environmental outcome of the scheme.
“Incentive to divert from landfill”
Diverting EOL batteries from landfill will provide more material for processing at the Melbourne, Victoria-based mixed-battery recycling facility of Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, a 90%-owned subsidiary of LIT.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: "As Australia’s only mixed battery recycler, company subsidiary Envirostream Australia is well placed to capitalise on the scheme.
“The levy on batteries will commoditise EOL batteries, currently considered waste material, and the value created will be a strong incentive to divert them from landfill.
“We are anticipating a significant increase in feed material for Envirostream, and the more it gets the greater the benefit for the environment.
“The scheme should encourage more sustainable use of critical materials used in the manufacture of batteries, reducing reliance on primary production.”
The aim of the scheme is to unite battery supply chain companies in efforts to significantly reduce the volume of toxic EOL batteries being disposed of as waste to landfill, and to maximise resource recovery by increasing collection and recycling rates and developing a domestic battery reprocessing capacity.
ACCC has determined that the BSC may implement a national stewardship scheme for all types of EOL batteries, apart from lead-acid batteries and those already captured by existing schemes.
The current determination was granted on September 4, 2020, for a period of five years.
Levy on battery imports
This scheme will be primarily funded by imposing an annual levy on all imported eligible batteries, which will be reviewed annually.
The levy will be passed on through the supply chain to consumers in a transparent manner as a visible fee and will be calculated on the weight of batteries imported.
Initially set at 4 cents per equivalent battery unit (EBU) and applying to companies that import more than 1,000 EBU annually, it is estimated that the levy will raise A$22 million annually.
The ACCC considers that the environmental harm caused by disposing of batteries to landfill, not to mention the cost of recycling batteries, is not currently reflected in their price.
Responsibility for managing disposal of batteries currently falls to local governments, meaning there is a lack of commercial incentives for Australian businesses to promote environmentally responsible disposal of EOL batteries.
The levy and rebate system proposed under the scheme are likely to better align the price of batteries with the cost of their responsible disposal while increasing the incentive for businesses to facilitate their recycling.
Detriments for the public include safety issues, trading restrictions for participating businesses, increased prices for eligible batteries and the burden of compliance - however, the ACCC is confident this will be outweighed by a significant public benefit.