Sunday, August 7, 2011

Battery Recycling In New Zealand

There is a war brewing in New Zealand about battery recycling and waste battery exports to Korea and the Phillipines.

First the background : Exide's battery recycling factory is the only one in New Zealand. Up until about 6 years ago New Zealand did not allow it's waste batteries to be exported. Exide had a monopoly and like any monopoly it took advantage. Scrap battery prices were set so low that it was not worth collecting them. Exide however made huge profits. However all this ended when exports were allowed and Exide had to pay market price for their raw materials.

Still this was not too much of a problem because Exide NZ was able to source batteries from it's Australian company Exide Australia. This situation also ended last year as Australian battery recyclers succeeded in stopping battery exports to New Zealand.

Today Exide recycling plant in New Zealand closed it's doors, citing lack of scrap batteries.... PERMANENTLY?

Greenpeace is calling on the government to come clean about exports of toxic waste from New Zealand to the Phillipines and South Korea.
OIA Documents passed to Greenpeace reveal that New Zealand has exported at least 50,000 tonnes of toxic battery waste to the Phillipines and South Korea since the end of 2008.
Greenpeace believes that serious question marks exist about whether these exports are legal under both the international Basel Treaty and Waigani Treaty, which make developed countries responsible for dealing with their own toxic waste rather than exporting it to countries where environmental and safety standards are lower
Greenpeace Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid said, "These revelations could threaten New Zealand's image both as a clean green country and a responsible member of the international community".
"If these deals are above board then why is the government withholding details of where in the Phillipines and South Korea our toxic waste is being processed?"
Greenpeace is calling on the government to:
? Release the names of the waste facilities in both the Philippines and South Korea where New Zealand's toxic waste is being processed and prove that their safety and environmental records were properly assessed before exports were approved.
? Put on hold any more exports of toxic waste until a full review of New Zealand's toxic waste management policy has been completed.
? Encourage development of a new state of the art recycling facility for New Zealand
Ms McDiarmid continued, "New Zealand has the moral responsibility to deal with its own toxic waste, not dump it on developing countries".
"The reality is we have the skills and technology to do this work cleanly and responsibly at home. The government should see this as an opportunity - to create new green jobs and investment."
"What New Zealand needs is a new state of the art recycling facility and one that isn't right smack bang next to people's homes and schools."

US execs making Exide ruling

Last updated 05:00 05/08/2011

Exide's environmental record has been attacked in Parliament as the battery recycling plant faces possible closure as early as today.
Sources close to the American-based company said a decision would be made in the United States early this morning on the Petone plant's future and that it could close its doors today because of a lack of work. It is not clear whether the closure will be temporary or permanent.
Exide workers told The Dominion Post last night that they had been instructed not to talk to the media. One said that message had been passed down "by management and the Americans".
Lawyers for Exide say it is being put out of business by the export of tens of thousands of used lead acid batteries to the Philippines and South Korea and that the shipments breach New Zealand's international obligations for the treatment of hazardous waste.
But Labour MP Trevor Mallard told Parliament it might be preferable to export the batteries than to keep open a factory with Exide's history.
That history included "explosions, causing damage to workers both by lead and the explosions, leakage at the boundary going into neighbours' [properties], a history of sickness of workers from lead poisoning [and] a history of dumping sludge in the Wainuiomata tip, then going into the Wainuiomata Stream", he said.
"There is no way that such a plant would be allowed to be located next to a residential area in most first-world countries, and it shouldn't be allowed here."
After questions in Parliament from the Greens yesterday, Mr Mallard also accused Exide of employing a "high-priced law firm" to get the Green movement onside in an effort to "save its bacon".
Exide has hired top public policy law firm ChenPalmer, which has lobbied the Government over its obligations under the Basel Convention, which requires countries to deal with their hazardous waste on-shore where possible.
Julie Wake and husband Steve have been living almost next door to the plant for 13 years. Mrs Wake said that if it didn't close, they would be forced to move.
"This is our first home together and we have invested our emotions into it, but we want to have children soon. This is not a place to bring up kids, they are more vulnerable to health issues than we are."
Mrs Wake said the community had actively campaigned for Exide to clean up its act for many years but the company had taken little on board.
Long-time campaigner Richard Whiteside said it was a no-brainer that the factory was endangering the health of the people of Lower Hutt and should be moved. "Recycling is a good thing, but why should we pay with our health?

"Even the Chinese are enforcing a buffer zone to residential houses of 500 metres. I believe this plant is the closest in the world to residential houses at just 50 metres and is only 250 metres from a children's playground and beach."
Environment Minister Nick Smith said he had begun a formal review of policy on battery shipments.
"My preference is for these batteries to be recycled in New Zealand, although I will need to be satisfied about the environmental standards, given the quite chequered record of the Exide Technologies plant in Petone."
He said in Parliament yesterday: "There have been substantive problems with ... resource consents in Petone and, given the toxic nature of lead, I think we would want to be strongly reassured of the plant's environmental performance."

Dominion Post

Exide lays environmental complaint

Battery recycler Exide, which has often been criticised for its environmental record, has lodged a complaint against the Government, citing environmental concerns.
Exide, which closed for at least several days yesterday, has told the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that granting Government permits to export used lead-acid batteries breaches New Zealand's international obligations and is thus illegal.
Sources close to the factory said it may close for at least part of next week because of a lack of work caused by used batteries being shipped overseas for recycling.
It is New Zealand's only plant for dealing with used lead-acid batteries.
In a letter to Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright, Exide Technologies Australasian managing director John Cowpe said the export of the batteries was unlawful, "but more fundamentally is likely to result in significant adverse effects on the environment".
He said that, if New Zealand became dependent on other countries to dispose of hazardous waste and that export market market dried up, it would be left with uncollected waste and no facility to deal with it.
Wellington Scrap Metals director Brett Hall said he had tried to sell batteries to Exide in the past and it had refused to buy them directly from him.
"Every time we try and sell to them, they come back to us and say, `No, go talk to Macaulay Metals – who's quite a big competitor down here – 'and deal with them because they are the only ones we like to deal with down here'.
"The reason we export is we can get more for it. It's a free market, you can sell for the highest price."
Yesterday, Exide said: "Since 2009, there has been a marked reduction in the fugitive emissions of lead recorded at the boundary monitors of the recycling facility site. We believe these improvements will continue due to the enhancements made at our facility.
"We are proud of our 40 dedicated and hard-working employees at our facility and the work that is being performed to ensure the proper treatment and disposal of used lead-acid batteries for all New Zealanders."
But Labour's Trevor Mallard, MP for Hutt South, said Exide did not have a good environmental record and should be closed permanently.
"They certainly are the worst polluters in the Wellington region in recent years and I'm not prepared to support an economic model that is based on a factory that has regularly in the last decade emitted poisonous lead emissions in to the neighbouring residential community."

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