Used lead acid batteries (ULABs) are a hazardous waste.
The Hazardous Waste (Regulations of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 and Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) (OECD Decision) Regulations 1996 regulate the export and import of ULABs.
You need a permit to import or export whole or broken ULABs or their components.
When to apply for a permit
Permits to export ULABs are granted in very limited circumstances only. This is because they can be safely recycled in Australia.
If you apply for a permit, you need to show that the ULABs cannot be collected and recycled in Australia by a licensed or authorised recycle facility.
Find out about applying for Hazardous Waste permits.
The components in ULABs can be broken down and made into valuable new resources:
- lead can be melted down and made into ingots (bars) and used to make new batteries, radiation protection shields, weights for lifting and diving belts, stained glass windows, cable sheaths, roofing products and many construction and industrial products.
- plastics (polypropylene) from the casing can be made into pellets and re-used to make various fabrics, bins, furniture, hand sanitiser stations, exercise equipment, fencing, decking, garden products, bollards, dog agility tracks used in parks, surface finishes, industrial sheeting, signage and much more.
- sulfuric acid can be made into Sodium Sulphate and used in detergents and fertilisers.
More information is available in the guidelines for the Basel Convention on Controlling Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal – (tip: filter for ‘Waste-Lead-acid Batteries’).
Find a recycling facility in Australia
Contact your state or territory Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to find a licensed facility that recycles ULABs before applying for an export permit.
- Australia Capital Territory Access Canberra
- New South Wales EPA
- Queensland Department of Environment and Science
- Northern Territory EPA
- South Australia EPA
- Tasmania EPA
- Victoria EPA
- Western Australia Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and the Waste Authority
Read more about recycling
- Resources for ULAB recycling (Australian Battery Recycling Initiative)
- Find a Recycler (Planet Ark) - select 'Materials' then 'Batteries - Lead Acid'
Read more about importing or exporting
- Australian Border Force - search for ‘hazardous waste’
- Guide to Exporting (Austrade)
- How Austrade can help (Austrade)
Hazardous waste classification
Used lead acid batteries contain lead, sulfuric acid and lead dioxide.
They are a hazardous waste under the Basel Convention on Controlling Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and the OECD Decision on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Wastes Destined for Recovery Operations.
If you apply for a permit to export or import ULABs, use all these Basel Convention codes in your application:
- Wastes characterised as hazardous (Annex VIII of the Basel Convention, List A)
- A1160 – Waste lead-acid batteries: whole or crushed.
- A1020 – Waste having as constituents or contaminants, excluding metal waste in massive form, any of the following:
- Antimony; antimony compounds
- Beryllium; beryllium compounds
- Cadmium; cadmium compounds
- Lead; lead compounds
- Selenium; selenium compounds
- Tellurium; tellurium compounds
- Hazardous Components (Annex 1 of the Basel Convention)
- Y31 – Lead: lead compounds.
- Y34 – Acidic solutions or acids in solid form.
- Hazardous Characteristics (Annex III of the Basel Convention)
- H6.1 – Poisonous (Acute): substances or wastes liable to either cause death or serious injury or to harm human health if swallowed or inhaled or by skin contact.
- H8 – Corrosives: substances or wastes which, by chemical action, will cause severe damage when in contact with living tissue, or in the case of leakage, will materially damage, or even destroy, other goods or the means of transport; they may also cause other hazards.
- H11 – Toxic (Delayed or chronic): substances or wastes which, if they are inhaled or ingested or if they penetrate the skin, may involve delayed or chronic effects, including carcinogenicity.
- H12 – Ecotoxic: substances or wastes which if released present or may present immediate or delayed adverse impacts to the environment by means of bioaccumulation and/or toxic effects upon biotic systems.
- Disposal Operations which may lead to resource recovery, recycling reclamation, direct re-use or alternative uses (Annex IV of the Basel Convention, List B)
- R3 – Recycling/reclamation or organic substances which are not used as solvents.
- R4 – Recycling/reclamation of metals and metal compounds
- R5 – Recycling/reclamation of other inorganic materials
We take non-compliance very seriously.
If you import or export ULABs without a valid permit, you are committing an offence and must pay to return them to the place of export.
Corporations are liable for a fine up to $2,220,000 and individuals may face up to 8 years imprisonment.
We may undertake activities and provide guidance material to help exporters and importers of ULABS comply with hazardous waste laws.
If you require further information, please contact us.
Hazardous Waste Section
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Phone: 1800 803 772