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Portable battery proposals requires doubling of collections to meet targets

Defra’s proposals to change the definition of ‘portable’ batteries mean that collection and recycling of non-lead or acid portable batteries must more than double this year for the UK and producers to meet EU targets.

Portable battery collection targets were introduced in 2010 to increase battery recycling. However, a loophole in the current guidance means that a large proportion of collection targets are met with hazardous lead/acid batteries, which were already being collected before the targets were introduced.

Defra currently considers that a portable battery “can be hand-carried by an average person without difficulty”. But this week, the agency issued a consultation to address concerns over a lack of clarity surrounding the term ‘portable’ (see consultation documents, right).

As it stands, only batteries over 10kg in weight are defined as non-portable and therefore classed as industrial. Those below 4kg in weight are defined as portable. However, for batteries weighing between 4kg and 10kg, the producer can decide whether it is portable or industrial, based on all information available.

This discretion has meant that portable battery collections targets have been met with a disproportionate amount of lead-acid batteries, which were already being collected.

In 2012, the proportion of industry members’ obligation met by lead/acid evidence was 83%, whereas the proportion of lead/acid batteries being placed on the UK market was just 8%, according to the document.

Meanwhile, the proportion of non-lead/acid batteries being treated and recycled has actually decreased since the first collection year of 2010.

To address this issue, Defra proposes the introduction of a single weight threshold of 3kg so that only batteries weighing 3kg or below will be considered portable.

Defra estimated that as a result costs to producers will increase by around 50% from an average of £945 per tonne to £1,400 per tonne because collection costs will increase.

However, this is expected to be offset by a reduction in producer obligations as the quantity of lead/acid batteries classified as portable under the proposals would decrease by 36%. This is why the collection of non-lead/acid portable batteries must more than double this year to be on track to meet the EU’s 45% portable battery collection target for 2016.

The amended portable battery guidance is forecasted for publication in October 2013, and expected to take effect from 1 January 2014.

Amendment 21 November: The original article said that the Environment Agency (EA) carried out the consultation. A spokesperson for the EA told MRW that the consultation had “simply been hosted on part of the EA’s website”, but was led by Defra.

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