AS a new requirement for shops to collect used batteries came into force in February 2010, the British Retail Consortium said retailers recognise their responsibilities and are confident that in-store collection facilities are now in place. However on its own that will not be enough.
Currently the UK only recycles 3% of the 30,000 tonnes of waste batteries that are discarded each year. Meeting national targets to increase battery recycling rates to 25% by 2012 and 45% by 2016 will need more use of kerbside collections and a comprehensive and continuing information campaign to change customers’ habits.
British Retail Consortium head of environment Bob Gordon said: “Informing customers isn’t all down to retailers. We need a comprehensive and continuing information campaign. And shops can’t be the only route for collection. We need to develop an infrastructure which includes workplaces, schools, community centres and kerbside collection.
“We need more local authorities to take used batteries from homes and a more consistent recycling regime for all materials. Incompatible schemes for dealing with different waste products – batteries, electricals, glass, plastics – confuse people and hold back overall recycling rates.”
Vince Armitage, divisional vice president at Varta, has expressed the concerns of battery manufacturers with the current situation: “The Directive places the responsibility of meeting its stringent collection and recycling targets on the manufacturer, but it relies on the cooperation of consumers and retailers to make it work. However, a lack of promotion means that awareness of the directive amongst 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.”