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Ministers to co-ordinate action on battery safety

Federal and state environment ministers have agreed to strengthen laws around battery disposal after a spate of deadly fires in homes and recycling facilities.

They met on Friday and a communique afterwards said: “Ongoing fires and emergency situations illustrate the critical importance of acting quickly on batteries to protect lives and property.

“Ministers noted that battery fires are escalating as an issue and require interventions through the battery life cycle – from their design to the way they are stored and disposed of at their end of life.”

Managing battery disposal is a “matter of priority”.

The ministers agreed to accelerate work on “product stewardship”, jointly led by Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and that work including a draft regulatory impact statement will be undertaken by December.

The NSW government says product stewardship involves minimising the health, safety and environmental impacts of a product and its packaging throughout the life cycle.

The state’s Environment Minster Penny Sharpe says NSW fire and rescue services responded to more than 270 lithium-ion battery blazes last year.

“But we know this is just a small fraction of the true number of battery fires. When batteries are not stored or disposed of properly, they can threaten lives and cause extensive damage to properties and waste infrastructure.”

NSW, Victoria and Queensland will start work on model legislation, as agreed at the meeting.

“This work will enable governments to quickly identify the best reform option to reduce the risk of fires, support the battery recycling sector and deliver the most cost-effective and efficient approach for businesses and consumers,” the NSW government said.

Insurers have repeatedly flagged concerns around batteries, particularly lithium-ion ones used in devices such as e-scooters and e-bikes.