Poll Results!

We’ve tallied the results of our first Recharge the Environment poll and the winner is… (drum roll)

Compulsory battery stewardship for producers! The runner up, recycle used batteries with regular recycling.

So what are the pros and cons of these and how could Australia implement them as realistic recycling options?

First, compulsory battery stewardship has been mentioned a lot on the blog and is part of the reason why Lilly and I began Recharge the Environment. Some of the feedback we got from the poll was that people didn’t understand what this entailed.

In a nutshell, product stewardship is when producers of a product take responsibility of what happens to their products throughout their lifecycle. It’s an increasingly important issue as many products we buy have very short life spans, especially electronic products. It means being environmentally and finically responsible for what happens to their products even after they are taken off the shelves. Specifically with batteries, this is important because of high toxicity and likelihood of leakage after use. This is also a large issue because of the lack of understanding among Australians and the low rate of proper disposal. Making companies responsible means they must provide free and safe ways for their customers to recycle their products.

At the moment Australia is undergoing the process of implementing voluntary stewardship  But we feel this does not go far enough. If battery companies wanted to take full responsibility they would have already. Thus making it compulsory (or as I talked about in this post, giving the incentive) for companies is the only real way to make real changes in the industry.

The second most popular option was, recycling used batteries with our regular recycling. This is most certainly the easiest for consumers as it requires the least amount of effort and is already a well established habit for all household and businesses in Australia.

There are several problems that come up with this option. We cannot put our used batteries in our recycling bins. Firstly, it will contaminate the materials that we already recycle. Secondly, it may become a hazard for people who work in the recycling industry. Batteries in Australia are classified as hazardous waste and therefore require specific permits and ways of transportation.

Lilly and I had a discussion about this recently and thought of two ways that this could be implemented.

a)  A separate bin for ALL batteries types. This requires creating an entirely new waste pick-up system, which in itself would very difficult and expensive.

b) A program similar to Mobile Muster, which provides appropriate storage containers to every household.

Mobile Muster, is a product stewardship campaign and one which has had positive result and industry support. In fact when I bought a phone the other day there was a bag inside advertising mobile muster, in which I could put any old phones, batteries and charges and recycle for free at designated drop-off point.

Considering the rising number of  drop-off points in Australia for batteries, I think we are well on our way to responsible use. Maybe what we need is a combination of initiatives? Still it comes down to us, the consumer, the public, because at the end of the day producers and the government have to respond to what we want!

As always guys, stay mindful and tell your friends… Lets recharge the environment together!

In the spirit of recycling hopefully this wil brighten up your Sunday!




The European Example

Last post, Lilly looked at one example of battery stewardship in North America called Call to Recycle. So I thought I’d have a look at what is being done in Europe to limit the amount of batteries that end up in landfill.

In Belgium, the issue of battery consumption and proper disposal has been addressed since the 1988. (So we’re already over 20 years behind). BEBAT, is a non-for-profit organisation set up in 1995, that provides battery collection and treatment. They also have a strong focus on education and awareness collaborating with schools around the country.  In Belgium, battery producers are subject to an eco-tax law but are exempt if they reach certain product collection targets. In 2012, the collection rate reached as much as 45%. By voluntarily registering with BEBAT producers can avoid the substantial cost of the tax and insure their products are recycled easily with little organisation responsibility. BEBAT is also regulated by three separate environmental agencies that ensures the organisation is run with the best interests.

This example is one of my favourites, because it demonstrates that is possible for the government, producers and environmental agencies to cooperate and work together. Here, the Australian government is hesitant to introduce compulsory battery stewardship. This is an initiative that puts pressure on producers without making it entirely compulsory, just in their best interest. Also it appeals to businesses as the collection and treatment is organised by a third party and does not mean extra resources.

In Switzerland a similar program called INOBAT is in place. It also operates to provide a collection and awareness programs. Producers report the volume of batteries put on the market and pay a fee. Retailers then must provide collection facilities to transfer to INOBAT. This program is mandatory but a collection rate of about 70% has been maintained since the 1990’s.

The advertisement below, is one run by INOBAT to encourage people to recycle their batteries. Their approach has long been one that uses comedy to point out the absurdity of not recycling batteries and it is one that appears to work.

Source: INOBAT

Source: INOBAT

The caption reads: “Apology accepted. All others must bring in their batteries.”

What do you think. Could Australia set up an initiative like those in Belgium and Switzerland?