Environment Matters – Recycling Your Batteries

Since producers must pay for the collection, treatment and recycling of batteries as of 1 February 2010.

Shops and online retailers must offer facilities to recycle batteries if they sell more than 32 kilograms of batteries a year. This is equivalent to one pack of 4 AA batteries a day. Shops which sell this amount must by law provide recycling facilities.

People in the UK currently use over 600 million batteries every year – that’s an average of 21 per household. A staggering 582 million of these end up in landfill, with harmful chemicals leaking into the soil.

The recycling of batteries effects businesses who use batteries, those who manufacture batteries and those who sell reasonable quantities of batteries.

The aim of the legislation is to increase the battery recycling rates in the United Kingdom and implement the standards required in a EU directive.

The government, in line with the EU, has decided to put the responsibility for recycling batteries on the shoulders of those who produce them. Currently the United Kingdom only recycled about three percent of its batteries which means that most of them end up in landfills. Not only does this take up a huge amount of space in landfills, but batteries can leak harmful chemicals which can then contaminate water supplies.

A recent study aimed to find out exactly how many batteries are thrown out during the holiday season in the United Kingdom, and the findings showed that the country still has a long way to go when it comes to battery recycling.

A recent DEFRA study showed that the United Kingdom tossed out over two hundred and fourteen million batteries over the Christmas holiday alone and that nearly ninety seven percent of these batteries would end up in landfills. The average home in the UK threw away a dozen batteries over Christmas and those household with children threw away more than triple that amount.

Half of those surveyed by DEFRA admitted that they simply threw away their batteries in the bin and many claimed that they were not even aware that battery recycling was an option. These numbers underscore the need for further education and awareness about the importance of recycling batteries.

It should be easier to recycle used batteries because collection points will be set up in shops and other prominent public locations. Recycling facilities are being upgraded as Britain attempts to scale up recycling of batteries from 3 per cent to 45 per cent.

Many of the items you regularly use at home will be run on batteries. Batteries from all of the following items, and many others, can be recycled:
• mobile phones
• laptops
• hearing aids
• watches
• portable cameras
• cordless power tools
• torches
• electric toothbrushes
• razors
• hand-held vacuum cleaners

Recycled batteries are first sorted into different types, for example lithium, alkaline, lead cell, mercury button, as each type is recycled differently.
Lead acid batteries (used for car batteries) and mercury button cell batteries (the flat, round, silver batteries found in watches) are fully recycled in the UK.
Lithium and alkaline batteries (AA, AAA and 9v batteries) are part-recycled in the UK, and then sent to plants abroad for the rest of the process.

Other types of battery are sent abroad, as the UK does not currently have plants that can recycle these.
For more information

Car Batteries
For industrial and automotive batteries:
• prohibition of disposal of automotive & industrial batteries into landfill and incineration, therefore all industrial and automotive batteries to be recycled;
• a requirement for producers of industrial batteries to offer free take back on all industrial batteries from end users;
The requirement for producers of automotive batteries to set up collection schemes for spent automotive batteries not already covered under schemes established under the End of Life Vehicles Directive is required.