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Question over UK meeting 10% battery recycling target

Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011

The UK's battery producers appear to have met government targets expecting them to collect 10% of waste portable batteries for recycling in 2010, with figures published today (March 14) showing a 10.2% collection rate was achieved in the first year under the new battery recycling regulations.

However, the Environment Agency says it is unable to confirm whether the target has been met, due to the data not including the tonnages of waste batteries collected by one of the six compliance schemes through which producers must meet their battery recycling obligations.

Battery collection targets will increase significantly over the next few yearsThe figures published on the Environment Agency’s National Waste Packaging Database reveal that, in total, 42,880 tonnes of portable batteries were placed on the market in 2010, and 4,376 tonnes of waste portable batteries were collected for recycling.

This would equate to a 10.2% collection rate overall and the Agency today confirmed that five of the six compliance schemes had achieved their individual 10% goals.

But, EA batteries project manager Bob Mead added that one scheme "has been served with an enforcement notice requiring them to submit accurate data by the end of this week." 

He added: "Until we have this data we are unable to say whether the UK as a whole has met its target.” A spokeswoman for the Agency confirmed the scheme in question was CCR REBAT.

Staging point

While the 10% goal was not legally-binding, it was intended to provide an important staging point as the UK strives to significantly increase its traditionally low battery recycling rate to the statutory 25% target set for 2012 under the EU Batteries Directive.

As such, the 10.2% rate means the UK will have to more than double its collection rate in just two years to meet the European Union goal, and today’s figures are likely to raise concerns over just how fast the UK is improving its battery collection rates.

In particular, the data for quarter four of 2010 shows a significant increase in the tonnage of batteries placed on the market in the run up to Christmas that was not matched by the increase in tonnage of waste batteries collected.

Between October and December 2010, 13,277 tonnes of batteries were placed on the market – the highest amount in any single quarter, but just 1,196 tonnes were collected – equivalent to a 9% collection rate.

This represents a further slowdown in the quarterly collection rate, since the 16.15% high initially recorded for quarter two (see letsrecycle.com story), after figures for quarter three, which were published in December 2010, showed a 10% collection rate (see letsrecycle.com story).

UK system

The figures published today are based on the tonnage of batteries placed onto the market by large producers. Under the batteries regulations the must join one of six batteries compliance schemes to meet their obligations to fund the collection, treatment and recycling of waste portable batteries.

The figures do not include the tonnage of batteries placed on the market by small producers, who are only required to submit data to the agencies and not to join a scheme. These figures are set to be published on March 31, but - based on 2009 data - they will add less than 150 tonnes to the total amount of batteries placed on the market.

The next target for battery compliance schemes is the similarly non-statutory interim collection goal of 18% for 2011.

The UK waste portable battery recycling system involves batteries being collected through a wide range of avenues, ranging from public buildings such as schools and libraries through to retailers.

The latter have an obligation under the regulations to provide free in-store take-back of waste batteries if they sell at least one pack of four AA batteries a day.

While the retail route is expected to play a major part in the early stages of the UK system, it is thought that, in some cases, battery collection points in shops could be moved aside to make room for more profitable sales stands.

Some experts have claimed that, as the targets increother avenues such as workplace and kerbside collections will have a larger role to play (see letsrecycle.com story) – despite councils having no legal responsibility to provide collections.

Category: Recycling
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