Lithium Australia to ratchet up battery recycling in Victoria

Lithium Australia’s 90 per cent-owned subsidiary, Envirostream Australia has applied for permission from the Environmental Protection Agency, or “EPA” Victoria to allow one of its Melbourne battery recycling premises to operate above 500 tonnes per annum, as it targets future volume growth in end-of-life battery collection.  Envirostream has operated below 500tpa of specified e-waste at its Victorian sites so was not previously required to hold an EPA license to operate.

As the only mixed battery recycler in Australia, Envirostream is focused on diverting the maximum amount of battery material from landfill and improving sustainability of the battery industry. Victoria banned the disposal of batteries to landfill back in July 2019.

The company is now developing and refining best practice processes for its industry as it works with the EPA on the licensing requirements for its expanding business.

Lithium Australia said Envirostream is Australia’s national leader in battery recycling, providing sustainable solutions for the disposal of end-of-life, or “EOL” batteries.  It has the only commercial recycling facility in the country which can process all types of EOL batteries.

Envirostream’s Melbourne plant produces a range of materials, including a mixed metal dust which is a sustainable feedstock for the manufacture of new batteries and contains active compounds recovered from EOL lithium-ion batteries, or “LIBs”.

The mixed metal dust product contains many critical battery materials such as cobalt, nickel, lithium and manganese.

Envirostream said its LIB material recovery rate of better than 90 per cent is very high compared with overseas competitors who traditionally incinerate the batteries at the commencement of the recycling process. The incineration process reduces mass yield and creates a risk of toxic atmospheric emissions.

In contrast, Envirostream’s low-temperature processing recovers volatile components, including plastics, resulting in much higher mass yields and lower carbon emissions.

Most importantly though, its process diverts the maximum amount of battery material from landfill to improve the sustainability of the battery industry and create a profitable circular economy.

According to Lithium Australia, the ACCC authorised the Battery Stewardship Council to establish and operate a national stewardship scheme for managing EOL batteries back in September.  It said the intent of the Council was to “commoditize” EOL batteries by placing a levy on new batteries at the point of sale to supplement the cost of subsequent collection and recycling.  

Lithium Australia said implementation of the stewardship scheme should significantly increase the volume of the EOL batteries Envirostream recycles as well as significantly increase the margins on its collection and recycling operations.

Envirostream is also looking into ways to reduce fire risk of EOL batteries while stored at collection sites prior to recycling at its premises.  A number of mitigation strategies are already in place and it is researching fire resistant collection containers to roll out across its network in due course.

Envirostream plans to continuously improve its own collection network and is leading a collaboration within the industry through its affiliation with existing suppliers and the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative.


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