E-waste-ful

Our friends at ‘Recycle A Phone’, posted a very interesting article the other day about smart-phones and the Lithium-ion batteries used in them. We haven’t really discussed specific varieties of batteries and their associated devices much. Smart-phones are a particularly prevalent issue involved in e-waste, because of their rising popularity and relatively high turn-over.

Smartphones use Lithium-ion batteries which are more environmentally friendly to mine and process. Old phones use Nickel based batteries and are more harmful to the environment. I feel like one the positives about Lithium-ion batteries is also the negatives. In Australia, we have a large resource of Lithium (for now), this also means recycling them is not economically viable as it costs less to mine new Lithium.

I think this is very indicative of the industry’s attitudes towards to recycling. It’s more about what is financially sound in the present than looking toward the future and saving resources. But Lithium prices are rising and are set to keep rising. As new phones are created and developed, so will demand and eventually your stunning new iPhone 5s will look like the Nokia 2100. (Remember this baby?… snake II anyone?)

Sourced: www.eliedh.com

There are options out there for instance, as I’ve mentioned before Mobile Muster. Also, if you’ve watched our video post (here) you’ll know that Sydney City Council offers recycling for phones, batteries and old light-globes.

The article also mentioned some great tips about saving your phones battery life. Although I keep harking on about recycling, extending a batteries life is also part of limiting the amount we go through. My favourites of the article where:

  • Don’t let your phone drop below 20%
  • Don’t charge your battery overnight

To find out why these are important make sure you visit the article.

Mobile phones as well as computers, TV’s and batteries are classified as e-waste (electronic waste) and is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, rising 3-5% a year.  It’s crazy how much time and money we invest in developing new products without tapping into the resource of materials we already have.

What do you guys think? Should mobile phone brands be re-using materials of old phones to make new ones? How many of you recycled your old phone the last time you upgraded?

-Lexie

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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!

35w6ja

-Lexie

The Potential for a National Scheme

After Lexie’s call to action last post, I thought that I would share some successful schemes that demonstrate the potential for a national recycling program. Through my research for this campaign, I have come across two great state government funded battery recycling schemes.

The strongest local government support for battery recycling is through the Western Australia Government Association (WALGA). From 2008 – 2011, WALGA, Waste Authority and Resource Recovery Levy piloted the Household Hazardous Waste Program. The HHW Program provides Local Governments and Regional Councils with funding to assist with the collection, storage and disposal of HHW – which included almost all kinds of batteries.  In this pilot period more than 658 tonnes of HHW was diverted from landfill and recycled or disposed of safely. Now, the Household Hazardous Waste has 14 permanent drop-off points that are free for the public to use. According to WALGA, batteries cost approximately $2-4/kg to recycle, which includes transport and recycling costs, but may not include in-kind collection costs borne by councils.

Batteryback is a service provided by the Victorian Government offering a free service that recycles old and used household batteries collected at specific Bunnings, Coles, HEARLINK, Michaels Camera, Officeworks and Queens Parade Hardware locations. According to the Batteryback’s website, “the program embraces the principles of product stewardship – to engage industry, retailers and consumers towards a shared responsibility for the collection and recycling of products.” The program has more than 30 locations around the state, and is continuing to expand.

Both of these state government funded programs demonstrate the potential future of recycling batteries in Australia. Both the HHW Program and Batteryback emphasize that a national scheme for recycling batteries is possible, and can be successful, as long as we have the right resources and support.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions on how to better improve Australia’s used battery recycling opportunities?

– Lilly