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Firm sets sights on first UK battery recycling plant

The UK’s first battery recycling plant is being planned to accommodate an expected increase in demand following regulation changes.

The venture, expected to open next year, is being planned by Wastecare, which is also looking to triple the number of portable battery collection points in the country during the next three years to 100,000.

To facilitate the plan, Wastecare has bought Veolia’s shares in compliance firm BatteryBack to become the company’s single owner.

The Government introduced a weight limit of 4kg for portable batteries on 1January, which reduced the volume of lead acid batteries that qualified as evidence for producer obligations.

Before then, batteries weighing between 4g and 10kg could be identified as either portable or industrial, depending on their characteristics.

Wastecare executive chairman Peter Hunt (pictured) said the change halved the amount of lead acid batteries that qualify, increasing a reliance on portable alkaline batteries for the UK to meet its 45% collection and recycling target.

BatteryBack has built up a stock of portable batteries during the past six years, he said, ensuring its members will meet their obligation for at least the next three years if increased recycling is not achieved.

Hunt said BatteryBack, which claims to have the UK’s largest battery producer compliance scheme, could not move forward until the 4kg limit was announced in December. But it now plans to build a recycling plant in either Avonmouth or Yorkshire.

“This will be the first battery recycling plant in the UK and it is going to have to be large enough to deal with UK output. We are hoping, if all goes to plan, it will be opening its doors in the second quarter of next year,” he said.

“If we don’t get this extra evidence, the cost will increase. We have the lowest costs in the UK at the moment for evidence and we want to keep it that way. The costs will be passed on to consumers and, in their eyes, it’s a tax so we want to keep that as low as possible.”

The estimated cost of recycling portable batteries in 2016 was revised upwards by 22% to £1,400 a tonne last year by Defra due to the definition change.

Wastecare’s deal to buy Veolia’s shares came about because both parties felt it would be easier to build the facility under the ownership of one company than as a joint venture.

As part of the deal, BatteryBack operations director Dave Reynolds has moved across from Veolia to Wastecare.

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