Battery trials suggest UK could meet recycling targets

As European targets to recycle more batteries loom, trials have been taking place across the UK to see how households might be persuaded not to simply throw them in the bin.

The EU’s Batteries Directive is set to come into force in the UK in 2008 and will require the collection and recycling of 25% of all portable batteries by 2012, rising to 45% by 2016.

An addition to the growing body of waste legislation coming out of Brussels which holds the producer responsible for waste its products create, the directive will require companies which make, import or sell batteries to pick up the bill for their disposal and collection.

But such take-back schemes each come with their own unique problems for batteries one of the main difficulties is engaging a public who could more easily throw the small, easily disposed of items in the bin.

Despite the difficulties, WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) believes it is possible to meet the targets and has been involved in a number of trial projects to see what might work best.

The first phase of these trials, the kerbside collection scheme, was launched in May 2006 and currently covers over 350,000 households. This first scheme was joined by retail take-back, community drop off and most recently postal schemes.

Although some of the trials are still in their infancy, collection data and householder feedback is already providing valuable insight in terms of how the general public is responding to battery recycling initiatives.

“It has been over a year since the first trials commenced and performance has been strong with 43 tonnes of batteries collected to date,” said Chris Davey, manager of local authority relations at WRAP.

“This success can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, together with our various partners, we’ve worked hard to establish clear and regular communications with residents for each scheme.

“That’s in terms of what we are asking them to do and also in keeping them up to date on their performance.

“Secondly, the general public has lived up to its promise of welcoming battery recycling. Before the trials commenced we commissioned some independent research that showed two out of three people would collect batteries for recycling.

“This appetite for battery recycling has been realised and is evident in both our collection data figures as well as anecdotal and face-to-face feedback.”

The current trials combined with other recycling initiatives could be collecting up to 4% of the country’s batteries by next year, according to WRAP, and if the trials were eventually replaced by nationwide schemes, the 25% target seems eminently attainable.

“Battery recycling in the UK undoubtedly has a positive future,” said Mr Davey.

“Momentum is gathering behind each of our trials and this is evident in our current collection total of 1.75 million batteries.”

Sam Bond

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