Battery recycling initiative by Phoenix Recycling Group off to a flying start

Over the past decade, Phoenix Recycling Group (former Phoenix Metalman Recycling) has grown rapidly to become Aotearoa NZ’s largest privately held metal recycler. The 100% NZ-owned, ESG-led business is further extending its impact this year with a nationwide end-to-end battery recycling solution.

“Most e-waste contains batteries, so these two go hand-in-hand with the end-of-life solutions we are offering for batteries.”

Leading this exciting initiative for Phoenix, in the role of Product Stewardship Manager, is Jasmine Faulkner who was a Sustainability Superstar finalist at last year’s Sustainable Business Network Awards. Phoenix plans to install hundreds of collection points in towns and cities to make it easy for Kiwis to recycle batteries of all types. The scheme is off to a flying start, following the recent acquisition of E-Cycle’s battery division in February 2024. E-Cycle was previously a chief collection partner for Phoenix.

“We are now servicing over 100 battery collection sites – both council and retail sites – across New Zealand,” says Jasmine. “Currently, we’re working on another 289 additional proposed locations. We want these collection points to be as convenient as possible in places where people shop frequently, for example, rather than just at council transfer stations.” As well as taking batteries for recycling, the collection points will be set up to accept vapes, both disposable and non-disposable. “Most e-waste contains batteries, so these two go hand-in-hand with the end-of-life solutions we are offering for batteries.”

Jasmine has over 12 years of experience in the metal recycling sector and a background in exports and trading. Through this, she became involved with the recycling of lead acid batteries and, in 2018, began investigating solutions for other kinds of waste batteries.

“As New Zealand’s largest exporter of used lead acid batteries, we were frequently presented with other types of batteries too. With no available recyclable outlet, it was clear something needed to be done. With full support from the company, I tasked myself with finding an environmentally sound solution for these other batteries.”

Jasmine Faulkner, Product Stewardship Manager at Phoenix Recycling Group.

The goal has been to provide a practical and effective recycling solution that also delivers on fire safety, as incorrect disposal of batteries can lead to fire, which is a huge risk for both waste and metal recycling industries. Corroding batteries also pose an environmental risk. Phoenix has been working with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to ensure their collection units are in line with best practice on fire safety, with UN dangerous goods-rated fire-resistant liners used for most of their mixed battery collections.

Phoenix also has a well-equipped fleet to manage the collection service and employs more than 50 full-time staff trained and endorsed to transport dangerous goods. Phoenix works with an off-shore recycling partner that shreds and processes the batteries to recover valuable metals so these materials can be used again. To date, more than 250,000 kilogrammes of assorted batteries – ranging from alkaline, nickel metal hydride and nickel cadmium to lithium batteries of various types – have been recycled.

In the pipeline for Phoenix in 2024 is another exciting new initiative, which is also related to the circular economy and this time involves end-of-life solar panels. Phoenix is independently Toitu Envirocare Net Carbon Zero certified and is the first and only New Zealand metal recycler to hold this certification. Now in their third voluntary carbon reporting year, Jasmine says the data shows their recycling operation is “close to 10 times climate positive for the environment.”

Accolades for Phoenix in 2023 include winning the Leveraging Investment for International Growth Award at the New Zealand International Business Awards and being named National Fastest Growing Exporter at the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. Through social partnerships like The Kai Ika Project – Cans for Kai programme in conjunction with LegaSea, Phoenix is actively advancing sustainable pathways in support of a circular economy. The Cans for Kai project not only serves as a fundraising initiative but also champions the value of recycling.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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