Resource Use

Bring Back Heavy Metals by recycling batteries, says new campaign

A new campaign run by producer compliance scheme Ecosurety and behaviour change charity Hubbub is asking you to dig out your old heavy metal, and they’re not talking about an Iron Maiden CD.

Loose in a jumbled drawer or gathering dust in a crowded cupboard: most of us have a few forgotten batteries lying around the house. And now a campaign by Hubbub, as part of its new partnership with Ecosurety, has revealed the true extent of the problem: 178 million used batteries are being wasted in UK homes, when the valuable metals they contain can easily be recycled and reused.

The aim of the campaign is to show just how easy this can be. Bring Back Heavy Metal has its own website, with a handy tool to show the exact location of your nearest recycling point, alongside a reminder that many councils even accept batteries with general kerbside recycling.

Like previous projects run by Hubbub, such as its ‘Trashconverter Van’ which saw people exchanging litter in the Forest of Dean for hot drinks, food and flowers, Bring Back Heavy Metal makes use of an offbeat concept with eye catching visuals to raise awareness of a serious issue, hoping to connect to and inform a wide audience via social media.

Dangerous possibilities

Lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc and lithium are just some of the metals found inside everyday single use batteries; these can be recycled into new batteries or repurposed for alternative uses. Lithium in particular is a useful metal for many electronics, and is at number fifteen on the British Geological Survey’s risk list of vital elements with threatened supply. Moreover, the standard AA or AAA battery is made of around 25 per cent steel, a resource which can be recycled infinitely.

And it is not only single use batteries which contain reusable elements, but also those in phones and laptops. Even car batteries can be recycled, though these need more specialised facilities.

Every type of battery thrown away consigns highly valuable - and toxic - metals to landfill. And that’s where millions of them are going every year: in a survey carried out prior to the campaign, 52 per cent of respondents admitted throwing batteries away in the regular waste bin. Those that end up in landfill have the potential to leak their harmful contents into soil, groundwater and surface water if not carefully managed.

Campaign hopes to drive progress towards recycling targets

Launching the campaign, Ecosurety’s Managing Director James Piper said: “In 2016 only 44 per cent of the UK’s used batteries were collected for recycling. That’s 380 tonnes short of the collection target, yet this new research shows that there is more than ten times the amount of the shortfall stashed away in people’s homes."

"We will soon have the facility to recycle batteries in the UK for the first time and we hope that people will be inspired by this campaign to empty their drawers, keep their used batteries out of the regular waste bins and drop them off at a recycling point instead.”

The campaign has garnered the support of a number of leading retailers, including Asda, B&Q, Marks & Spencer, Currys and Morrisons, who all have battery collection points in store and have pledged to make these more visible to customers.

Trewin Restorick, CEO and co-founder of Hubbub, said: “All supermarkets and other major battery retailers are obliged to have battery recycling points for customers, but these can often be hard to find. Four in ten people said they’d like better visibility of recycling points."

As well as encouraging people to recycle their old batteries, Bring Back Heavy Metal also asks us to consider using mains electricity instead of batteries, or to switch from single use to rechargeable batteries, a more cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative.

This campaign is the first collaboration between Hubbub and Ecosurety, ahead of a new partnership which will see them produce two consumer-facing campaigns a year from 2018, created by Hubbub and funded by the producer compliance scheme.

More information about battery recycling and the campaign can be found on bringbackheavymetal.co.uk.