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Hybrid Batteries Spark Waste Fears in Australia

Posted on August 25, 2008
Filed Under Government, Toyota Camry | Leave a Comment

Australia has no ability to environmentally dispose of the batteries from the Toyota Camry hybrids whose production has been championed by Kevin Rudd.

Labor in Victoria, where the cars will be built, has conceded a “current hole” in the nation’s recycling policies means there is no capacity to environmentally dispose of the nickel-metal hydride car batteries from the 10,000 hybrid cars to be produced by Toyota every year from the start of 2010.

Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings appeared to concede that the hybrid Camry batteries, which can weigh more than 50kg and cost several thousand dollars, “may ultimately end up within the waste stream”. The admissions prompted Opposition claims that Victoria would be faced with tens of thousands of used hybrid car batteries over the next decade, with no sustainable way of disposing of them.

“The Government is busy basking in the benefits of this policy while leaving the environment to pick up the tab,” said Liberal MP Andrea Coote.

In June, the Prime Minister and Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced in Japan that Toyota Australia would produce 10,000 petrol-electric hybrid Camrys a year at its Altona plant in Melbourne from 2010.

Mr Rudd promised Toyota $35million from its new Green Car Innovation Fund, a figure immediately matched by the state Labor Government.

Under questioning in state parliament last week, Mr Jennings said he was happy Ms Coote had “been astute enough to pick up what might be a current hole in the resource efficiency capability of not only Victoria but also the nation”.

Mr Jennings said he welcomed “encouragement to deal with a whole-of-life issue concerning products that may ultimately end up within the waste stream”.

He said the current volume of hybrid Camrys, given that production does not start until 2010, was “very low in terms of the Australian marketplace”.

The state Government would look at ways of tackling the issue.

“I am happy to look at local-based regulation and market mechanisms, but also harmonisation with other jurisdictions across the nation, to try to make sure we have the appropriate investment and regulatory environment, whether that be most appropriate in state or national jurisdictions,” he said.

Ms Coote said the Government was “clearly more focused on collecting accolades than the environmental issues associated with their policy”.

“In the next decade, Victoria will be faced with tens of thousands of dead hybrid car batteries, with no environmentally sustainable way of disposing of them,” she said.

But Mr Jennings said the Opposition criticism showed it was opposed to the production of environmentally friendly cars.

“I want Victoria to lead the way nationally in developing a clear framework for identifying when and what products require recycling at the end of their use, including car batteries, and the most appropriate market or regulatory approach to achieve that,” he said.

According to Sustainability Victoria, rechargeable batteries, including nickel-metal hydride, are collected by a waste disposal company. Australia does not have the technology and services required to recycle these batteries, so they are processed overseas by a French company that “specialises in the recovery of nickel and cadmium to a strict environmental standard”.

The federal Government is considering its response to former Victorian premier Steve Bracks’s review of the automotive industry, handed in earlier this month.

Ford, one of three companies that manufacture cars in Australia, yesterday pressed its case for a delay in tariff reductions in a private meeting at Parliament House between its global chief executive, Alan Mullaly, and Mr Rudd.

Mr Mullaly was invited to make a presentation to Mr Rudd by Industry Minister Kim Carr during his visit to Detroit in June.

“The judgment was it was a good opportunity to visit Australia and to discuss what is being considered in terms of the future policy arrangements applying to the industry and the perspective of a key participant,” Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said yesterday.

Source: The Australian News

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