In the first week of June 2019, the Environment Agency published battery recycling figures showing that the UK met its 2018 waste portable battery recycling target, however, there are concerns that there is a high volume of of lead acid batteries contributing to this overall target which are likely to be non-obligated under the portable battery recycling target
Specifically, UK portable battery compliance schemes collected a total of 17,811 tonnes of batteries for the year, exceeding the set target of 17,540 tonnes for 2018. This target represents 45% of the average annual volume of batteries placed on the market by producers in the three years previous.
Concerns over the amount of lead acid batteries making up the aforementioned figure are due to the fact that out of the 17,811 tonnes collected for recycling, lead acid made up around 9,488 tonnes (around 53%), meaning the lesser volume was collections of 'other' batteries. However, lead acid batteries only equal just 3.5% of the obligated household batteries placed onto the market each year.
The reasoning behind this imbalance is potentially due to different interpretations between battery recyclers and producers in terms of the classification of which lead acid batteries are ‘portable’ or ‘industrial’ at the start and end of life. Subsequently, a higher amount of lead acid batteries has been collected for recycling than the amount which producers are obligated to finance.
Portable batteries are the only category to which a recycling target has been assigned; historically, battery recyclers have stated that due to regularly being in the dark as to the original use of some lead acid batteries, it's not possible to decipher which are classified as industrial or portable.
In response to the recycling data, David Reynolds of the compliance scheme Batteryback, said:
“Lead acid evidence is still too high, compared to lead acid placed on the market. Through stakeholders meetings we have been working with Defra and the agencies to resolve that and to try and achieve the objectives of the battery regulations.
“We have put a paper to Defra summarising some of the things that might be a part of the solution and one of them is having chemistry specific targets or being more creative with the chemistry. At the moment chemistry is just reported but it does not have a value. Defra could restrict the amount of lead allowed.
“Batteryback has been working with Duracell to try and engage school children to collect more batteries. In the last six months we have had over 1 million school children involved in that.”
Moving into 2019, the battery recycling data for quarter 1 indicates that the lead acid battery trend has continued; specifically, 2,532 tonnes of lead acid batteries collected, versus 1,631 of ‘other’ chemistries.
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