The Environment Agency has warned businesses that make, import or sell batteries and battery-operated equipment to start getting ready to comply with new Battery Regulations due to start in 2010.
EA batteries project manager Bob Mead said: Some details of how this legislation will be implemented in the UK are currently being consulted on. But, we do know that it will cover all the types of batteries we are familiar with from AAA cells and mobile phone batteries to the button cells used in hearing aids and watches and impact on lots of firms.
With October 2009 the likely deadline for producers to join schemes and start providing sales data, the EA warned that companies need to begin preparing sooner rather than later.
Only 3% of the 30,000 tonnes of portable batteries that are sold onto the UK market annually are recycled. Under the EU Batteries Directive, the UK will have to collect 25% of waste portable batteries by 2012.
Under the Governments new proposals anyone who places batteries, or products containing batteries onto the UK market for the first time will be deemed a producer. All producers of portable batteries will have to join a Batteries Compliance Scheme (BCS). Some battery stakeholders have criticised the proposals and said that small producers would face financial burdens because they claim that joining a BCS will be expensive (see MRW story).
Retailers, with the exception of the smallest businesses, will also have to run in-store take-back schemes. The Government is currently proposing that exemptions will cover retailers selling less than 16 kilogrammes of portable batteries a year.
British Retail Consortium spokesman Richard Dodd said: Retailers are well aware that the battery regulations are around the corner and are actively looking at how it will work for them in practice and planning for it. But there are hard questions to answer. For example, retailers do not know how customers will respond to the regulations and it is difficult to predict how big the up take will be [customers sending batteries back to stores].
Confederation of Business Industry head of environment Matthew Farrow said: It is important for the EA to flag up the need for businesses to prepare for the regulations. But the onus is on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the EA to give clear guidance to companies on what they need to know and do.