Targets for battery recycling now in reach

July 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Goals set concerning the number of batteries recycled each year now appear to be in reach. According to the Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP), targets set by the Battery Directive are likely to be attained by 2012 as was initially hoped. Nevertheless, a number of obstacles remain which may prevent these goals from being achieved in full.

So far, large numbers of batteries have been recycled in the United Kingdom. To date, WRAP has collected over 1.75 million batteries. Collection of used cells takes place in a number of ways. Deposit points are now available at the premises of most major retailers such as Argos, Tescos and Currys. Curbside collection facilities remain ever popular. However, a number of new schemes are currently being trialled. In May, WRAP together with the Royal Mail, launched a ‘collection by post’ initiative in two districts in Cumbria and Dumfries & Galloway. These services allow local residents to mail a variety of batteries, ranging from AAA to D, to recycling contractors. Specialized packaging is available to those who wish to take advantage of the scheme. This is essential for the safe transport of used and damaged batteries. If all goes to plan, this trial is expected to continue until 2008. The Waste Resources Action Program is confident that increasing the availability of collection facilities and the ease of disposal will encourage more people to recycle batteries.

However, despite this apparent success, much more needs to be done. Firstly, the collection and sorting of batteries can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Secondly, there is the ever-present problem of government red tape. Certain types of batteries are classified as ‘hazardous’ waste and must therefore be dealt with according to guidelines set out under national Hazardous Waste Regulations. Other types of batteries are classified as ‘dangerous.’ As a consequence, transportation and disposal of such cells is subject to the government’s Carriage and Dangerous Goods Regulations. This makes uniform collection schemes difficult. Paradoxically a number of obstacles to the recycling of batteries have arisen as a result of the new Waste Electrical and Electronic Directive (WEEE). In particular the WEEE directive is likely to affect the manner by which internal batteries in electronic goods are handled. Attracting investment to the sector is also essential. Despite growing awareness of the problems facing the environment, investment is limited, with the majority of recycling projects currently being funded by the government. Nevertheless, there are a number of signs to suggest that this situation may soon change. For example, G&P Batteries is presently developing a recycling plant for lithium ion and manganate batteries – the first of its kind in the UK.

Batteries contain many chemicals harmful to the environment. Some cells contain toxic heavy metals, whilst others release harmful chemicals such as mercury when left to disintegrate in landfills. It is therefore vital that they are recycled whenever possible. For further information on battery recycling or for tips on how you can do your bit to help the environment, click here.

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