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Battery recycling: It’s all about a circular economy


AA Battery Service is committed to caring for the environment, with an operation dedicated to supporting the recycling of all scrap batteries by rewarding AA Members and customers to do so. AA Batteries pay for the scrap and collect the batteries to ensure they are recycled responsibility to prevent them ending up in the landfill.

The benefits of recycling are enormous. It prevents harm to the environment, people and wildlife and helps to make good use of resources that would have gone to landfill, and the best of all it is helping to keep New Zealand cleaner for future generations.

With electric vehicles hitting our roads in droves, it is inevitable that an EV battery may fail from time to time, and the big burning question remains as to what will happen to it in the afterlife?

EVBattBlog

The AA sits on the Governance Group of The Battery Industry Group (B.I.G), a cross-industry collaboration designing re-use and recycling solutions for large batteries, usually found in electric vehicles or in stationary energy storage.

Where it all began

In a paper released in 2019 by Vector called New Energy Futures on Batteries and the Circular Economy. It outlined the challenges of the current ‘linear’ (take-make-waste) economy for lithium-ion batteries and the commercial and innovation opportunities for our nation if it was to make the transition to a circular economy. The Paper provides the circular economy vision and context to ensure the product stewardship scheme the B.I.G. designs is safe, inclusive and circular.

The paper noted that the New Zealand Government identified a ‘circular economy’ approach as an important principle for addressing resource and waste issues for NZ’s future.

A circular economy as explained by the Ministry for the Environment is an alternative to the traditional linear economy in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

A circular economy is restorative by design. It is underpinned by the use of renewable energy. It is a sustainable, viable and a low carbon alternative to the dominant ‘take-make-waste’ linear model (NZ’s Circular Economy Accelerator CEA).

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The paper also revealed that through an exploration of future scenarios of the battery value chain in New Zealand it was agreed that:

1. The need to solve the problem of EV batteries at end-of-life presents opportunities to create new market offerings and services.

2. Collaboration between private sector and the government is needed, to introduce collective frameworks such as a product stewardship scheme that will enable new market solutions.

3. It is critical to bring consumers along from the start. They can help to shape new markets and finesse new solutions in a rapidly changing landscape.

With the absence of vehicle manufacturing infrastructure in NZ, we can’t simply return a used BEV battery to the supplier in order for them to take care of it. So this presents an opportunity for innovators to step up to the plate.

Battery Traceability

The first B.U.G. (Battery Users Group) workshop was held in Auckland on November 2020. The workshop brought together fleet managers, EV advocacy groups, EV rental businesses, stationary energy storage users and others who may be left holding a battery at the end of its useful life. The group is chaired by Mandy Mellar, the General Manager of the AA Battery Service.

April 2021, The Battery Innovation Hub (B.I.H), Audi, Everledger and Vector began working on a battery traceability platform to support the proposed product stewardship scheme developed by B.I.G. This platform will optimise battery life cycle, support safety and governance, enhance efficiency and ensure responsible end of life recovery. They launched a video which demonstrates how the platform would work, using an Audi battery.

In May 2021, the B.I.G. Core Delivery team submitted to the Ministry for the Environment a proposal document. This document puts forward a proposal for a ‘circular’ product stewardship scheme for large batteries. The New Zealand Battery Stewardship Research project has worked to identify the most appropriate integrated solution for New Zealand, for our current state of play and different future scenarios that will support a circular economy.

There are several more hoops to jump through yet before the scheme becomes regulated, but it’s on the way.

In a positive sign for future developments there are already a few companies in NZ who offer EV battery replacements or are delving into reconditioning or repurposing spent batteries such as Blue Cars and EVs Enhanced.

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