Several European countries already recycling batteries to protect environment and resources
Businesses that make, import or sell batteries and battery-operated equipment from torches to toys should start planning now so they are ready to comply with new regulations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of batteries, the Environment Agency said today.
Around 700 million batteries, which can contain a number of substances harmful to the environment such as cadmium, are landfilled in the UK each year – and just 3% of the 30,000 tonnes of portable batteries that are sold onto the UK market annually are recycled.
But the Batteries Directive sets strict targets and by 2012 a quarter of all end-of-life portable batteries in Britain, some 7,500 tonnes, must be recycled rather than discarded – a figure already being exceeded in several European countries including Belgium and the Netherlands.
Bob Mead, Batteries Project Manager at the Environment Agency, which will regulate battery producers in England and Wales, said: “Some details of how this legislation will be implemented in the UK are currently being consulted on. But, we do know that it will cover all the types of batteries we are familiar with – from AAA cells and mobile phone batteries to the button cells used in hearing aids and watches – and impact on lots of firms.
“Ensuring that portable batteries are correctly disposed of and their component parts, such as their metal casings, are reused is good news for the environment. But, looking after the environment is a shared responsibility and to be a success we need lots of diverse businesses to get involved.”
Under the Government's new proposals anyone who places batteries – or products containing batteries – onto the UK market for the first time will be deemed a producer. This includes wholesalers who import batteries for the UK market.
All producers of portable batteries will have to join a Batteries Compliance Scheme (BCS). Compliance scheme operators will arrange collection, treatment and the recycling of used batteries on behalf of their producers from whom they will recover their costs.
Retailers, with the exception of the smallest businesses, will also have to run in-store take-back schemes. Government is currently proposing that exemptions will cover retailers selling less than 16 kilogrammes of portable batteries a year or/and not covered by the Sunday Trading Laws.
With October 2009 the likely deadline for producers to join schemes and start providing sales data, companies need to begin preparing sooner rather than later.
Producers should begin collecting data and ensure they have records of the amount of batteries sold onto the UK market from January 2008. They should also look out for the list of compliance scheme applications that will be published on the Environment Agency's website in June then talk to those schemes to find out which one would suit best.
Bob Mead added: “Details around the Directive's implementation may change but the potential benefits for the environment won't and all producers will need to get ready. Finding out more will ensure your firm is well placed to deal with the new legislation effectively.”
To take part in the Consultation on the Implementation of the Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators Directive, which closes on 13 February 2009, go to www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/sectors/sustainability/batteries/page30610.html For more information on the Batteries Directive visit www.defra.gov.uk, www.berr.gov.uk or www.environment-agency.gov.uk