Australian Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2015

Blog site for the 2015 MSU study abroad program.

May 25- Orbitas Lead Recovery Plant

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G’day mates! Today we left our home in Wagga Wagga and began our journey to Sydney, Australia! We started the day with breakfast and hit the road.

Our first stop before Sydney was the Orbitas Lead Recovery Plant. We met up with Shaun, Darren, and Matt at Orbitas’ main Wagga Wagga office. Shaun gave a presentation about what Orbitas does and what their company goals are.

Shaun beginning his presentation to the crowd

Orbitas is a company that reprocesses used resources and turns them into lead and other elements. It opened in 2010 and is a relatively new facility located in Wagga Wagga, NSW. It is located there because that is the halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne.

Orbitas uses recovered resources to create new and different commodities. They mainly take used lead acid batteries (ULAB) and extract the lead to be used in different projects for clients. They process 42,000 tons of ULAB every year. Lead batteries are typically used in cars, emergency backup systems, and computers. Recycling batteries produces elements like soft lead and sodium sulfate. Sodium sulfate can be used to create paper and plastic products. This cycle of using batteries to produce other products is a great way to create a more sustainable battery life.

What sets Orbitas apart from other recycling companies is that 95% of the batteries they collect end up being recycled and used in new products. In 2015 they have been working on a new project where they can recycle batteries and used them to reproduce new lead based batteries.

After talking to the Orbitas employees, they took us to the actual plant where lead and other elements are extracted. Since lead is dangerous to breathe in, we had to dress in full jumpsuits and wear gas masks on the tour. We walked around the factory and observed the different machines used to extract lead. The processors were massive but unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures

Entering RMT offices, part of the Orbitas Lead Recovery Plant

Dressed in proper tour attire. We later had to wear full suits since our leggings were too short!

The process of extracting lead from batteries was complicated, but as we toured around the facility we got to get a better idea of what the process entailed. Batteries are brought in and stripped down so that the lead components are all that is left. The lead is then put through a cleansing process where it is filtered using high heat in huge vats. The result is a solid bar of lead that can be used by clients.

Orbitas has made many strides in recycling batteries as well as other goods. Orbitas has done a great job in promoting recycling and reuse of products, but they still have some goals to reach in order to become a more sustainable company. Sustainability is defined as balancing social, economic, and environmental outcomes for future generations. While recycling certainly contributes to improving sustainability, there is more that Orbitas could do to become more sustainable. If Orbitas could use renewable energy to power their plant, their company would become more sustainable. Even though they don’t use renewable energy in this way Orbitas has managed to make a profit while contributing to a more sustainable system. Without Orbitas, lead batteries would sit in landfills and have no use for people.

The gorgeous view behind Orbitas!

After leaving Orbitas, we boarded the bus once again  and finally headed off to Sydney. We had a quick drive to the train station and then checked our bags. We took the New South Wales (NSW) TrainLink from downtown Wagga Wagga to downtown Sydney, 460 km total (283 miles). The train stops in many different locations so we got to see a lot of different scenery on the way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 9.15.02 PM

Map of the drive from Wagga Wagga to Sydney

After a seven hour train ride, we arrived in Sydney. Everyone was excited to finally be done with traveling, even though we made the best of it by playing cards and talking with one another. The city was gorgeous and we can’t wait to see what adventures we get into next!

YHA Central, the hostel we stayed in once we arrived in Sydney!

The Sydney Opera House!



One thought on “May 25- Orbitas Lead Recovery Plant

  1. Eastminster Kids

    Why was the town called Wagga Wagga? Was it named after a person?

    Do they take the case off of the batteries?

    What do they do with the batteries after they take the lead out?

    What does Lead look like?

    What does Australia look like? Any funny animals?

    What food (traditional) do they eat in Sydney?


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