Lithium Australia NL’s (ASX:LIT) (OTCMKTS:LMMFF) (FRA:3MW) subsidiary Envirostream Pty Ltd has launched research and development into fire-resistant collection containers for roll-out in its network in a bid to mitigate the risk of incidents in the collection and storage of batteries.
Envirostream has been developing industry-wide improvements to ensure safety improvements in collection, storage and processing of batteries and to further reduce associated fire risk.
Significant effort has gone into designing fire-resistant collection boxes, bags, crates and containers to reduce the fire risks associated with battery collection and storage.
Improve collection network
The company said there were no other end-of-life mixed battery shredding and processing facilities in Australia and with lithium-ion batteries becoming part of everyday activities, there was a growing need for the industry to continue to evolve to manage this constantly increasing hazardous e-waste stream and fire risk.
Envirostream will continue to improve its own collection network and will work on improving and leading the industry in this area through its affiliation with its existing suppliers and the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative.
Envirostream noted that one of the highest fire risks was the incorrect packaging of end-of-life mixed or lithium-ion batteries at collection locations.
Whilst it cannot control the battery packaging from externally managed collections, a number of mitigating strategies have been implemented at its facilities to reduce the likelihood of a fire. These include:
➢ The installation of an early heat detection system and fire detection alarms to its recycling facility with site continuous monitoring;
➢ The storage of mixed battery types changed from steel to plastic containers, with lithium-ion batteries processed as a priority to minimise inventories of dangerous goods;
➢ Significantly increasing its mixed battery sorting capacity to allow the safe storage of lithium-ion batteries;
➢ Following Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria guidelines for management and storage of combustibles recyclable and waste material;
➢ Process equipment modifications, which include additional cooling water points, procedural changes to safe operating practices and additional operator training to reduce fire risks; and
➢ Actioning risk mitigation advice from Fire Rescue Victoria.
Additional sites being identified
Envirostream has begun identifying additional storage, sorting and recycling sites to expand its operations nationally as end-of-life battery volumes are expected to grow significantly.
The company has also begun a process to partner in additional recycling facilities in other priority jurisdictions around the world.
Managing end-of-life batteries in Australia
In early September 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) authorised the Battery Stewardship Council to establish and operate a national stewardship scheme for managing end-of-life batteries.
The aim is to commoditise end-of-life batteries by placing a levy on new batteries at the point of sale to supplement the cost of subsequent collection and recycling.
The scheme should significantly increase the volume of end-of-life batteries Envirostream recycles as well as substantially increase its margins on its collection and recycling operations.
Working with regulatory bodies
Envirostream is also continuing to work very closely with the regulatory bodies to ensure its management systems, safety and environmental procedures are better than industry-accepted standards and to minimise the risks to the local communities
On September 11, 2020, Environstream applied for an EPA Victoria works approval for one of its Melbourne premises to operate above 500 tonnes per annum (tpa) of specified e-waste due to its expected growth in both battery collection and recycling volumes.
It noted there has been industry-wide confusion surrounding battery classifications as specified e-waste and that battery recycling is a new industry where best practice is still evolving.
Envirostream has had regular discussions with regulators about its licensing requirements.
Australia’s first battery recycling facility
Following discussion with EPA Victoria in mid-2020, it commenced preparing an application for an EPA licence to operate a scheduled premise.
The company is working very closely with the EPA to demonstrate industry best practice at Australia’s first battery recycling facility.
Envirostream continues to work through the EPA’s process with the view to its application for a licence to operate a scheduled premise.
The company continues to operate at below the 500tpa of specified e-waste processing rate and has taken steps to significantly minimise the stock levels at each of its premises to mitigate risk.