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Battery safety in the home

22 November 2016

button cell batteries

Battery safety is an increasingly important issue, especially leading into the holiday season. ISF and the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative have been involved with designing child resistant battery containers – but we need your help to trial them.

Every week, twenty children present at Australian emergency departments with an injury related to a button or coin cell battery. These are the small round batteries commonly used in devices such as watches, calculators, hearing aids, remotes and electronic toys. If children swallow these batteries it can result in chemical burns caused by the residual charge in the battery, which can lead to severe injury or even death, as seen in the tragic case of Summer Steer.

Fortunately, there are many things that we can do to prevent these injuries from occurring. Major retailers across Australia, including ALDI, Energiser Australia and Officeworks, have voluntarily agreed to a new industry code, designed to improve the safety of these batteries. Increased media coverage over the past year, such as this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, has improved visibility of the issue.

Unfortunately, the increased awareness of the issue among industry and the media is not necessarily reflected in the attitudes and behaviours of the Australian population, according to initial research we have conducted. A survey of over 300 householders conducted by ISF earlier this year found that two thirds of households stored used batteries in their homes for two months or longer after removing them from appliances.

Our research also found that only 3% of households stored batteries in a container or location that is child resistant. As a result of these practices, most of the 300 million button and coin cell batteries annually sold in Australia end up in landfill, contaminating land and water.

Our research highlights the need for new solutions that create safer and more convenient systems for storing and recycling of batteries. Through this project we are developing and trialling new solutions to improve battery safety and recycling practices.

To develop a solution, we need your help.

We are looking for volunteer participants test options for recycling, by trialling a new battery storage container in your home for 3 months beginning in December. These containers have been specifically designed for the project, and independently tested against Australian standards for child resistance. By being among the first to test these containers and provide feedback on their design, you will be improving the lives of Australian families, by making battery recycling safer.

If you would like to be involved in the next phase of research, please email us to express your interest. We welcome participation from all households in NSW and ACT (with or without young children). Please email us by Monday 28th November with the following details: 

  • Your suburb 
  • The number and ages of any children in your home:
  • Your best contact number and preferred contact times 

We will then provide you with further information on the project before taking part. We look forward to your participation in this important project.

About the project:
This research is being undertaken by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) as part of the New Business Models for Battery Recycling project funded by NSW Environmental Trust. This research has been approved through the UTS ethics process which means any information collected will be confidential and you will be free to withdraw at any time.