Sustainability

UK surpasses batteries recycling target

batteries 2012Provisional figures from the Environment Agency’s National Packaging Waste Database show that the UK recycled 27.7 per cent of portable batteries in 2012, surpassing the EU’s 2006 Batteries Directive 2012 target by 2.7 per cent.

This marks a drastic improvement to the UK’s recycling rate for portable batteries, which in 2008 came in at only two per cent.

The ‘UK Portable Batteries Data Summary for Quarter 4 of the 2012 Compliance Period’ (published 28 February 2013) reveals that, in 2012, the amount of portable batteries delivered by battery compliance schemes to approved battery treatment operators and battery exporters totalled more than 10,000 tonnes. 

Breakdown of waste portable batteries delivered by battery compliance schemes to approved battery treatment operators and battery exporters in 2012 (tonnes): 

Battery type

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

Total

Lead-acid

2,593.833

2,333.200

2,367.738

1,798.512

9,093.283

Nickel-Cadmium

86.740

29.448

28.215

3.304

147.707

Other

622.715

476.695

328.461

243.215

1,671.086

Total

1,671.086

2,839.343

2,724.414

2,045.031

10,912.076

The data does show some discrepancies, however, with figures suggesting that though only 3,043 tonnes of lead-acid batteries were placed on the market in 2012, while almost triple that number was collected.

Figures 'merit investigation'

Speaking to Resource, Scott Butler, Managing Director at one of the UK’s five compliance schemes for batteries, ERP UK, said: “At just over 300 per cent, the return rate for portable lead-acid batteries is an unusual statistic that we do not see mirrored in any of the other European countries where ERP provides batteries compliance. I think this merits further investigation.” 

Managing Director of G&P Batteries, Michael Green, added: "The reason for [the skewed lead-acid figure] seems to be that the definition of a portable battery the producers are using when they're putting batteries onto the market is not the same as the definition the waste industry uses when they measure lead-acid batteries coming off the market."

However, Chief Executive of compliance scheme Repic, Dr Philip Morton, said that the skewed figures could be due to a number of reasons, including lightweighting of material: “Some people are saying that there are some concerns because we’re collecting more waste portable batteries than are being placed on the market. Well, that could be for a whole host of reasons.

“Look at WEEE – the collection rate for TVs for display is about 200 per cent, and the reason for that is very simple: when you buy a flat panel TV it might weigh 10 kilogrammes but the one that gets thrown away might weigh 80 kilogrammes. Similar things might well be happening with batteries.”

Environmental consultants 360 Environmental voiced scepticism at the figures, with Director Phil Conran saying that they highlight the “farcical nature of the implementation of the Batteries Directive in the UK”.

“As the amount of lead-acid battery evidence increased, it depressed the value of general portable battery evidence making many of the real portable battery collection schemes (that the regulations were supposed to target) unviable.

“The Batteries Regulations have been a great example of a fudge in action. If the targets look impossible, change the goal posts so we look good to Europe. Presumably, someone in Europe will eventually catch on, but until then we must quietly applaud ourselves for a job well done.”

Compliance schemes have until 31 May 2013 to obtain evidence to meet their members' obligations for the 2012 compliance period.

Final data for 2012 is expected to be published in June 2013.

Read the ‘UK Portable Batteries Data Summary for Quarter 4 of the 2012 Compliance Period’ and find out more about battery recycling in Resource 70.