Launched in January 2022, B-cycle is a free recycling service for used batteries that provides Australians with more than 3,200 drop-off points across the country. With most of the collection points located at supermarkets, the scheme provides a large portion of the Australian population with easy access to recycling used batteries, which are hazardous and potentially dangerous products when disposed improperly.
B-cycle research estimates around 150 million used batteries remain in houses across Australia ready for recycling. One of the biggest barriers to recycling is a lack of awareness with 63% of people reporting before the scheme’s launch that they disposed of batteries into their household bins.
To launch and manage the B-cycle scheme, the Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) was formed in 2018, collaborating and consulting with industry to design a national system. The scheme currently focuses on consumers, covering loose household batteries and batteries that can be easily removed from products such as cameras and power tools. Additional battery types will be phased in, including e-bike batteries and portable energy storage batteries.
Keeping toxic and valuable materials out of landfill
Batteries are made of a mix of valuable and hazardous materials, which makes them an important item to recycle correctly. When they are thrown away in household garbage or recycling bins, materials like magnesium and zinc that could be recovered and used again are lost to landfill. When the batteries begin to break down, they release toxic materials like mercury and lead into the soil, which can potentially leach into our waterways.
Even dead batteries have some residual charge which can create sparks when rubbed together. If batteries are not stored or recycled safely, those sparks can lead to flames with numerous reports of fires breaking out in recycling facilities and trucks.
Recycling used batteries though registered collection points ensures the materials are safely recovered and used again to make new products. Sometimes, the materials recovered are even used to make new batteries.
Recycling batteries into new products
The batteries that are collected through the scheme are sent to facilities for sorting and processing, most of which happens here in Australia, before being used to make something new.
B-cycle’s six-month progress report states most of the batteries are recovered for their metals. Batteries also include small amounts of plastics, only some of which are recyclable. The report shows more than 90 per cent of all battery materials were reprocessed in Australia, turning them into raw materials that can be used again to make new products. Less than 5 per cent of all battery materials were sent to landfill, with the remaining materials being exported overseas for reprocessing.
Battery recycling for businesses and workplaces
Currently, B-cycle does not offer free recycling services for businesses and workplaces such as offices, which may have larger quantities of batteries than households. Businesses and workplaces seeking recycling services for used batteries can either use Business Recycling’s free directory of recyclers or purchase a recycling collection box.
Batteries 4 Planet Ark offers a door-to-door recycling service that is accredited under the B-cycle scheme, in partnership with our logistics partner Close the Loop. The service provides a fire-proof collection box, and covers delivery, collection, and recycling of the batteries, from anywhere in Australia.