23.03.21

Have your say on the future of large batteries in NZ

By Phil Crawford

Electric vehicles and energy storage systems rely on battery technology. So, what’s going to happen to those large batteries when they reach the end of life in Aotearoa? An industry alliance has a plan that could be world-leading and it wants your feedback.

Last year the government declared E-waste, including large batteries, as a ‘priority product’ under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. That means large batteries will need to be part of a regulated, accredited product stewardship scheme before they can be sold in New Zealand. The aim is to keep them out of landfill, from being dumped in the environment, or being ‘downcycled’.

Enter the Battery Industry Group (B.I.G.) which has more than 170 members from the energy, waste, transport and battery sectors. They have developed a proposal for a product stewardship scheme that enables second-life and innovative end of life solutions for large batteries.

The scheme supports a circular economy approach where waste and pollution are designed out, products and materials are kept in use (such as a large battery being given a second life in another application), and natural systems are regenerated.

At this point the scheme is still a proposal and B.I.G. is asking for public feedback by 26 March. After that the proposed scheme will be submitted to the Ministry for the Environment. It’s expected that it will be about another one to two years until the scheme is actually up and running.

In simple terms, the proposed scheme would track large batteries throughout their lifecycle. Exact details of how that could be done are still up for discussion but could include a digital ‘battery passport’ like the proof of concept B.I.G. will be sharing in April. Battery importers and manufacturers in New Zealand would be obligated to join the scheme. They would pay an advanced fee on all new batteries to cover the eventual costs of recycling. B.I.G.’s financial modelling suggests fees in the first 20 years of the scheme could be between $20 and $260 per large battery. Under the proposals it would be up to the seller to choose if this cost was passed on to the consumer.

It is proposed that the scheme would be owned by a single not-for-profit Product Stewardship Organisation reporting to central government. It would work with battery businesses to make sure they were aware of their obligations under the scheme.

B.I.G. says the World Economic Forum Global Battery Alliance is watching New Zealand closely and what we do here could be used as a model around the world.

The proposed scheme demonstrates an industry-wide effort to lead change on the circular economy. Currently we send around 3.5 million tonnes of waste to landfill in New Zealand every year – that’s over a tonne of rubbish per household. This proposal, along with a growing number of established product stewardship initiatives, provides a solution. Learn more at sbnproductstewardship.org.nz