Battery manufacturers charged with task of making product safer

With less than a year to go until the new EU Batteries Directive becomes national law, UK battery producers must take practical steps now to ensure that their products and practices confirm to the stringent requirements of the directive. Here Karine Dalleau, consultant at WSP Environmental, outlines the changes.

For manufacturers, one of the most significant impacts of the directive is the restrictions placed on the use of mercury and cadmium in battery production. Similarly, producers of electrical goods which contain batteries should also be checking and tracking mercury, cadmium and lead levels in batteries they incorporate into their products to ensure they comply with the Directive.

"The Directive imposes strict recycling targets and reporting obligations," said Karine Dalleau.

"Battery collection schemes must be established to allow end-users to discard batteries easily and for free. Collection schemes set up already under the WEEE Directive are going to compete to cover batteries, if they are not already doing so, and we recommend producers join a relevant national recycling scheme sooner rather than later."

The UK is required to attain a 25% collection rate for portable household batteries by 2012. That target then increases to 45% in 2016.

Ms Dalleau said: "Currently the UK is collecting less than 2% of household batteries, largely due to cheap landfill and the high cost of putting collection schemes in place. That scenario is set to change under the new Directive which firmly places the costs of collection and recycling of batteries on producers. This, coupled with the demanding targets, means that the UK can no longer afford not to recycle batteries."

All batteries are covered under the directive, including car, mobile phone, button cell (as used in watches and cameras), laptop, household appliance as well as back-up power supplies for hospitals and accumulators used in trains and aircraft. Many of these products will be also fall under the ambit of the WEEE Directive.

Ms Dalleau said: "Producers need to check their responsibilities under both Directives, as one may trigger enforcement of the other. If a producer intends to use a WEEE collection scheme already set up to collect batteries, it is imperative that it allows for adequate reporting. The UK has been set challenging recycling targets and a robust reporting system detailing battery type and weight is essential."

The EU Batteries Directive is based on the concept of 'producer responsibility' and together with other EU legislation such as the WEEE and End of Life Vehicles Directives, aims to ensure that those who place products on the market take responsibility for such products once they have reached the end of their life. The ambit of the Directive is wide and covers all battery manufacturers, importers and retailers, plus those involved in the recycling of batteries. It also covers those who manufacture and distribute electronic and electrical equipment ("EEE") containing batteries.

WSP Environmental is a global environmental consultancy, providing a comprehensive range of market-leading, commercially orientated environmental consultancy services across all sectors, including construction, property, automotive, energy, transport and industrial.

For further information, the WSP website.

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