Post-Brexit Britain to offer circular economy for batteries with new recycling plant
The UK will no longer need to export used batteries across Europe thanks to the development of a new plant which will allow the country to be self-sufficient in battery recycling as it prepares to leave the EU.
Due to launch in the autumn, the recycling facility will be the UK’s first functioning battery recycling plant. The site will be capable of processing up to 20,000 tonnes of batteries a year - more than the country's entire battery waste.
This will effectively eliminate the UK's reliance on nations in northern Europe to recycle its batteries at increasingly high costs. The timing of the plant's development is particularly significant, considering that Brexit is anticipated to lead to higher costs and tariffs for Britain's export market, which includes Approved Battery Exporters (ABEs).
By taking battery recyling into its own hands, the UK has the potential to dramatically reduce its aste export bill, while costs for producers will fall due to the fact export rates will no longer be included on batteries. The battery recycling facility will also lower the environmental impacts of shipping tens of thousands of tonnes of potentially hazardous waste across the sea to Northern Europe every year.
"This is proof that the UK waste and recycling industry can find its own innovative solutions to our waste resourcing issues through partnership working," said Damian Lambkin, head of innovation at resource efficiency specialist Ecosurety, which has developed the battery recycling facility in partnership with international recycling group Belmont Trading.
The batteries will be recycled at Belmont’s Kilwinning site, near Glasgow. More than £300,000 worth of equipment will be installed onsite by September this year to enable the sorting and shredding of batteries to commence from November.
Belmont Trading's UK managing director Jeff Borrman said: "We strongly believe that greater transparency between producers and reprocessors can revolutionise their relationships - a vision we know is 100% shared by Ecosurety, and we look forward to helping domestic battery producers extract maximum economic value with minimum environmental impact by recycling in the UK."
A spokesperson for Ecosurety confirmed to edie that they around 15-20% of the UK's batteries will still need to be exported once the plant has been developed, compared with the 100% currently. The partners are currently working to find a solution which means the remaining batteries - excluding lead acid batteries, for which there is already a solution - will no longer need to be sent abroad.
The latest annual data from the National Packaging Waste Database revealed that the UK battery collection rate for 2016 was 44.95%, just below a collection rate target of 45%, in line with the EU's Batteries Directive.
The Directive, which sits alongside the EU's Circular Economy Package, aims to help protect the environment by making it compulsory to collect and recycle batteries and prevent them from being incinerated or dumped in landfills. It is likely that the UK will not be directly bound by many EU environmental controls, including those relating to battery recycling, following Brexit, leaving the level of ambition in this area in the hands of the UK Government.