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Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant opens

A Victorian company is Australia’s first to recycle lithium batteries which are fast-becoming the main source of power for mobile electronics and large storage batteries in homes and industry.

Until now, used lithium batteries have been sent overseas for recycling, but developing home-grown processing power means taking control of the recycling process in Australia and producing work for local communities.

Envirostream Australia’s new $2-million facility at New Gisborne, north of Melbourne recycled 240,000 kilograms of batteries last year.

“As one of the country’s trailblazers in reprocessing electronic waste, it’s helping to keep valuable resources out of landfills, Sustainability Victoria CEO, Stan Krpan, said.

“Envirostream is showing how opportunities can be developed in Australia’s resource recovery sector, create jobs in regional communities and capture valuable chemicals, copper, steel, nickel, lithium, other metals and graphene captured so they can be sent to South Korea to be used in new batteries.

“Only three-per-cent of Australian batteries are currently recovered. It’s the lowest rate in the OECD.”

The plant was officially opened today by Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio who also released details of a plan to rapidly increase recycling of electronic waste (e-waste).

Sustainability Victoria is rolling out a State Government $16.5 million e-waste infrastructure development and awareness program to prepare for the e-waste landfill ban. The program includes:

  • $15 million in grants to help Victorian councils and state government entities upgrade infrastructure to collect e-waste at more than 130 sites
  • a $1.5 million awareness campaign to educate Victorians about what e-waste is, how it should be managed, and the environmental and economic benefits of reusing, donating, repairing or recycling it.

Upgrading collection facilities will ensure 98 per cent of Melbournians are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of people in regional Victoria will be within a 30-minute drive of one.

Many Councils already have e-waste recycling at their facilities. Check with your local council about what’s available in your area. National programs like Planet Ark and MobileMuster also collect e-waste including printer cartridges, phones, TVs, computers and batteries.

Infrastructure upgrades will ensure 98 per cent of Melbournians will be within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point. And 98 per cent of people in regional Victoria will be within a 30-minute drive of one.

Envirostream received $40,000 from Sustainability Victoria to buy equipment to increase the recovery of valuable materials in batteries. Sustainability Victoria has a range of grants programs to help businesses develop more sustainable operations.

Envirostream Director, Andrew McKenzie, said recycling batteries at New Gisborne would create five new jobs over the next year and help build Victoria’s recycling capacity.

“We have a nationally coordinated partnership to increase Australia’s low recovery rates of batteries and mobile phones and want to make sure these recoverable resources are not just thrown away or sent offshore for recycling.”

We’re working with Planet Ark and MobileMuster to increase used mobile phone and battery recovery and to educate the community about the need to recycle electronic waste onshore.

“We’re in an increasingly mobile world. Lithium batteries are now the dominant mode of energy storage for domestic and industrial uses, and like other e-waste, their use is growing fast,” Mr McKenzie said.

Lithium is a relatively common mineral which is mined around the world. It has been used for more than a century with traditional markets including glass and ceramic manufacturing, industrial greases, air treatment and medical applications.

Lithium ion batteries were developed in the early 1990s. While production for traditional uses is not expected to rise significantly in coming years, overall lithium demand is growing.

The 2017 Commodity Research Book Battery Raw Material Review says global consumption of lithium carbonate is expected to grow from 184,000 tonnes in 2015 to 534,000 tonnes in 2025, chiefly through the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, E-bikes and energy storage systems.


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