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UK surpasses first mandatory battery recycling target

15th March 2013

Provisional data published by the Environment Agency shows that 10,915 tonnes of waste batteries were collected in the UK in 2012 – a collection rate of 27.7% for the year.

However there are concerns that the volume of portable lead acid batteries being collected is disproportionately high in comparison to the volume being placed on the market. With just over 3000 tonnes worth of batteries placed on the market and over 9000 tonnes collected for recycling, the collection rate for lead acid batteries was around 300% in 2012.

Under the Batteries Directive, batteries are categorised into three groups: automotive, industrial and portable. Only portable batteries have a recycling target which currently requires EU Member States to collect 25% of the average number of portable batteries placed onto the market over the three preceding years. In 2015 this target will rise to 45% of the average over the three preceding years.

The government intends to address the problem surrounding the lead acid batteries, which has most likely been caused by differing interpretations of which batteries are ‘portable’ and which are ‘industrial’. In the UK, portable batteries are classified as any battery or battery pack which is sealed, can be carried without difficulty, and is neither for automotive nor industrial purposes. Where the original use of the battery cannot be ascertained, the recycler often defers to reporting the battery as ‘portable’.

There are calls to clarify the definition of portable batteries to avoid skewed figures in the future.

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