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Government proposes lead acid battery clarification

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Companies that turn to Collect and Recycle ( for their electronic recycling needs will be interested to read of the government’s publication of proposals to address a discrepancy in which ‘portable’ batteries are defined – which has been claimed to result in lead acid batteries meeting a disproportionate amount of the UK’s battery recycling targets.

Also highlighted by the government was the need for a significant increase in the UK’s collections of other waste battery chemistries if its mandatory EU targets for battery recycling are to be met. It added, however, that some producers may see an increase in the costs of achieving this.

UK recycling authorities have so far only attached a target to portable batteries, which are classified in the UK as any battery which is hand-sealed, does not involve difficulty in hand-carrying and is not for either automotive or industrial purposes.

It was long been argued by battery recyclers that their frequent inability to know how some lead acid batteries were originally used makes it impossible to determine whether they should be classified as ‘industrial’ or ‘portable’. This leads to the reporting of many as ‘portable’, leading to an inflation in the number of lead acid batteries counted towards recycling targets, compared to the amount that producers place on the market.

The proposals were jointly disclosed by Defra, BIS, the Environment Agency and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, and involve the classification of batteries as ‘portable’ only in the event of their falling under a suggested 3kg threshold. This compares to the existing definition, whereby batteries qualify if they are “hand-carriable”.

The government commented in its consultation notes on the planned changes that the ‘grey area’ around portable batteries should be removed, as well as that they should improve the “credibility and consistency” of data received by the European Commission under the Batteries Directive.

Should the plans see approval, there is likely to be a reduction in the UK’s battery recycling obligation, given that there will be fewer lead acid batteries defined as ‘portable’. But it is also likely to result in a rise in some battery producers’ compliance costs involved in meeting their recycling obligation, from £900 per tonne to as much as £1400 per tonne, the government has forecast.

However, given that lead acid batteries accounted for 86 per cent of the waste portable batteries collected in 2012, despite only comprising 8 per cent of those entering the market in the same period, the government has admitted that the UK’s collection and recycling of other chemistries of portable batteries will need to be significantly boosted, if the country is not to miss its 2016 EU recycling target.

The government has told battery producers and waste recycling specialists that it will publish guidance on the new definition – which will come into effect early next year – this October. It is a development that we will certainly keep a keen eye on, here at IT recyclers Collect and Recycle (

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