Voluntary battery stewardship scheme granted authorisation

The Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) will be able to establish and operate a national scheme for managing expired batteries under an authorisation granted by the ACCC.

BSC was formed in 2018 with the primary goal of establishing a battery stewardship scheme in Australia that would see a significant increase in battery collections and recycling.

Batteries imported by members of the scheme would attract a levy of four cents per 24 grams (the weight of a AA battery). Rebates would then be paid to recyclers to help offset the cost of collecting, sorting and processing expired batteries. Members of the scheme must agree to only deal with other members along the supply chain, with limited exceptions such as for pre-existing arrangements.

The BSC estimates that only about 3 per cent of handheld batteries in Australia are recycled. Most batteries go to landfill.

“This battery stewardship scheme has the potential to be an important tool for encouraging businesses across the battery supply chain to take responsibility for treating batteries in an environmentally responsible way,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“The ACCC believes the scheme can achieve significant environmental benefits by increasing the number of batteries that get recycled rather than going to landfill.”

“There are also benefits from increased public awareness around battery disposal and re-use, and supporting increased research and development,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC notes that by encouraging consumers to hold onto button batteries for subsequent collection and recycling, there is a risk the scheme may inadvertently increase the safety hazard of young children ingesting batteries or the risk of house fires.

The ACCC’s current advice is for consumers to dispose of used button batteries immediately given the safety risk of serious injury or death if they are swallowed or inserted into the body. Young children are at the greatest risk due to their narrower oesophagus and tendency to place small objects into their mouths, ears and noses.

In order to address this issue of consumers potentially storing button batteries for later recycling, the ACCC has imposed a condition requiring BSC to develop a button battery safety strategy within 12 months. The strategy is to be guided by an advisory group involving the ACCC, relevant industry bodies and medical and child safety experts.

The ACCC has granted authorisation until 26 September 2025.

The ACCC considers it important that BSC is able to demonstrate strong take-up of the scheme, and effective administration and risk management before applying for re-authorisation in 2025.

More information, including the ACCC’s reason for decision is available online on the ACCC’s public register at Battery Stewardship Council.

ACCC Media Release: 187/20