Battery Recycling Law In Force

(Independent) – SHOPPERS will be able to recycle old batteries in thousands of shops across the country from today.

Under a European directive, every shop selling more than a pack of batteries a day will be forced to accept old batteries for recycling and most are expected to set up in-store collection points.

The change will bring Britain into line with many EU states. Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Robert Dyas, Dixons, Currys and PC World are among those offering recycling. Britons use 600 million batteries a year; just 3 per cent are recycled.

The Batteries Directive applies to all portable batteries – from those in electrical goods such as torches and radios to rechargeable batteries in mobile phones and digital music players.

An estimated 30,000 tonnes of portable batteries go on to the market in the UK each year, of which 97 per cent end up in landfill when they are finished with.

Under the new regulations, collection and recycling of batteries must rise from the current level of just 3 per cent to 10 per cent by the end of the year, 25 per cent by 2012 and 45 per cent by 2016, with manufacturers responsible for the targets being met.

The directive aims to cut the amount of batteries going to landfill, where they can leak harmful chemicals into the soil, and to save carbon emissions by reducing the need for using new materials. It comes into force in the UK today.

But battery maker Varta warned a lack of awareness among consumers and retailers – who will have to provide collection points for customers to return old batteries if they sell more than a small amount – could make the goals impossible to meet.

The British Retail Consortium said the required facilities in stores are in place but added that there is a need for wider action, including more recycling collections from homes.

Vince Armitage, divisional vice president at Varta Consumer Batteries UK, said the company has concerns about how the directive is going to work in practice.

“The directive places the responsibility of meeting its stringent collection and recycling targets on the manufacturer, but it relies on the co-operation of consumers and retailers to make it work.

“However, a lack of promotion means that awareness of the directive among these key groups is low.

“This gives us great concern that, as a nation, we are setting ourselves up to fail before we even begin.”

Collection and recycling will cost manufacturers around £1,000 a tonne, making the price tag of meeting the 10% goal £3 million, Varta estimates.

The company believes meeting the targets will become increasingly difficult as the “low-hanging fruit” of cheaper and easier options are used up.

British Retail Consortium head of environment Bob Gordon said retailers are ready with the collection facilities for old batteries, but that will not be enough on its own. It will then be up to manufacturers to collect and deal with the batteries.

He said informing customers should not just be left to shops, and called for a “comprehensive and continuing” information campaign on recycling batteries.

He added: “Shops can’t be the only route for collection. We need an infrastructure to develop which includes workplaces, schools, community centres and kerbside collection.

“All the evidence shows home collections of recyclables are easiest for customers and produce the best results. Developing these mustn’t be ignored.

“We need more local authorities to take used batteries from homes and a more consistent recycling regime for all materials.”

But Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: “This new legislation will make it easier for consumers to do the right thing whilst ensuring retailers fulfil their part of the bargain.

“Old batteries can cause harm to the environment when they are not recycled.

“The new approach to disposal of batteries will help to reduce the number of batteries that now end up in landfill.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that recycling batteries will save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2016.