2 Oct 2009

Britain's battery recycling one of Europe's worst

'Britain's battery recycling one of Europe's worst' was the title of an article in The Ecologist by Chie Elliott in June this year. Basically less than 3 per cent of household batteries are currently recycled in Britain. So why are we at the bottom of Europe's league tables?

I wanted to see how Stroud compares so I have sought info - basically battery recycling is now regulated by a new EU Battery Directive, which sets collection targets of portable household batteries at 25 per cent by 2012 and 45 per cent by 2016.

Chie Elliott writes: "The directive, agreed in September 2006, severely restricts mercury and cadmium batteries and requires all new batteries to be marked with the crossed wheelie bin symbol and chemical symbols for mercury, cadmium and lead. The final part of the directive was transposed into UK legislation on 5 May 2009. As a 'producer responsibility' directive, collection schemes are to be financed by producers, and distributors are required to take back exhausted portable batteries in the absence of an existing scheme....The European Battery Recyclers Association (EBRA) represents 90 per cent of battery recyclers in the 27 EU member states plus Switzerland, Turkey and Norway. EBRA's statistics, based on 2007 members' data, show Switzerland as top battery collector at 65 per cent, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and France. The UK comes in 15th place at 3 per cent, alongside Turkey, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

So why are we sending batteries to landfill and exposing ground and surface water to heavy metal contamination? Why is Britain at the bottom - in 2006 the average UK household sent 21 portable batteries a year to landfill - that's 600 million units! Can we blame the failures in some areas for Districts and County's to talk? Burying batteries in landfills costs a tenth of the cost of recycling. Another problem is the multiple producers in the UK - in Belgium and Germany for example recycling responsibilities are centralised by one, at most two, organisations.

Nine out of 10 people say they would be willing to recycle them if a door-to-door collection scheme was available in their area - only seven per cent of UK's population has this including Stroud. Since the collections started in April 2005 we have collected 15,860. Stroud is also seeking to offer battery recycling points in / outside some public buildings in an agreement with other Councils in Glos. Hopefully this will improve figures.

So can we achieve the directive's targets by 2016? Green MEP Caroline Lucas said in Chie's article: 'It will be difficult at the current rate. We need an adequate education programme and good communication from the government. The problem is the government lacks political will and leadership. It has the tools to improve the system but chooses not to devote resources to it.'

What we need is a 'green tax' on batteries.

Chie also has five things you can do:

1) Buy battery-free appliances or use the mains whenever possible.
2) Buy nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries over less efficient and more toxic nickel cadmium (NiCd) ones.
3) Participate in your council's battery collection scheme, if available. If not, contact them and find out if one is planned.
4) Take your old batteries to your nearest recycling centre if they accept them.
5) Seek guidance from the original battery retailer or appliance manufacturer on how to dispose of waste batteries.

See here WRAP on recycling batteries.


Rachel Cotterill said...

I've been filling a small plastic tub with batteries since I moved to an area where they were collected, planning to put them out for recycling once the tub is full. But it's been nearly 3 years and still only half-filled!!

IBM Laptop Batteries said...

My public library is the place I go to recycle my old batteries. Although the library recycles them for me, I only found this out "by chance". I think that there should be more places to recycle them, and more spotlight on such things. Paper is biodegradable, but batteries and plastic bottles are big problems and are unsafe for the environment. I believe that we really need to let more people know about recycling availability and possibly expand the availability of recycling bins. I think old postal boxes are great for the transformation of letter use to recycling uses.