The Battery Directive count down

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The new Batteries Regulations came into force on 5 May 2009 in the UK. On 1 January 2010 producers will have to become compliant with the Regulations while on 1 February 2010 retailers will have to commence the take back of waste batteries. Bob Mead, batteries implementation project manager for the Environment Agency, advises IER readers on the responsibilities of the parties involved in the collection and recycling of batteries.

Collection and recycling targets

The Directive seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacture, distribution, use and disposal of batteries and accumulators. It will reduce the number of hazardous and non-hazardous batteries going to landfill and increase recycling. The UK has been set a target to increase its portable battery recycling from 3% (2007 figures) to 25% (7,500 tonnes) by 2012 – and to at least 45% by 2016.

Battery Compliance Schemes (BCSs), approved by the Environment Agency, will administer the collection and recycling of batteries from distributors and producers. The producer is not necessarily the battery manufacturer but it is anyone who places batteries on the UK market for the first time, so this includes retailers and wholesalers if they import stock for sale.

Batteries within products also count. If they have not previously been placed on the UK market, whoever brings them into the UK market commercially is classified as the producer.

Anyone who supplies batteries, or products containing batteries, on a professional basis to an end-user but is not the producer, is classed as a distributor (this usually means a retailer).

The responsibilities

Retailers must offer an in-store battery take-back facility from 1 February 2010 if they sell over 32kg of portable batteries annually. Batteries within products do not count when calculating this figure. They must accept any portable batteries, not just those they sell, and regardless of any purchase by the depositor. They do not, however, have to pay for their transport and treatment; approved BCSs are obliged to collect them free of charge.

Retailers selling less than 32kg of batteries do not have to accept waste batteries.  BCSs are obliged to accept them, but they do not have to collect them.  Although some may choose to do so, it’s advisable to check before deciding to take-back batteries under these circumstances.

Producers should already comply with the requirements of last year’s Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) Regulations which set limits for cadmium and mercury in new batteries and imposes marking requirements. They must also now record the weights and types of portable batteries they place on the UK market, detailed by lead-acid, nickel cadmium and ‘other’. Visit www.berr.gov.uk for information on the Placing on the Market Regulations.

Since April 2009, the government has distinguished between ‘large’ and ‘small’ producers of portable batteries. ‘Large’ producers place more than one tonne of portable batteries onto the UK market annually. They will have to pay for the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of waste batteries in proportion to their market share, by joining a BCS. They must apply for BCS membership by 15 October 2009.

‘Small’ producers place one tonne or less of portable batteries onto the UK market annually. They will not have to pay for their collection and treatment, but must register with their relevant environment agency (England & Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland) within 28 days of the first date on or after 15 October 2009 on which they place any batteries onto the UK market.

Further information

Questions about distributor take-back should be sent to Defra at portable.batteries@defra.gsi.gov.uk. You may also visit:

www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/waste/topics/batteries/pdf/0907-advisory-note.pdf.

Defra is likely to appoint an enforcement body for retailer take-back in October.

With general queries regarding portable batteries visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/batteries or phone EA helpline on 08708 506506. For queries on automotive or industrial batteries contact BIS at batteryconsultation@berr.gsi.gov.uk  

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