The UK remains rooted to the bottom of the European battery recycling league, with just one in every 100 household batteries collected for recycling.
This was the finding of research by the Liberal Democrats, with the country collecting 0.5% of batteries sold in 2002 compared to top-placed Belgium that managed 59%.
Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Dan Rogerson said: “It is deeply worrying that the latest official figures place the UK at the bottom of the European battery recycling league. The country is likely to be way off target meeting requirements of future European recycling targets for batteries.
The situation is causing increasing concern, with the Government admitting the potential risk involved in dumping large amounts of batteries in landfill sites through the leachate of the toxic cadmium, lead and mercury.
But with the decommissioning of Britannia Zinc in Avonmouth, the UK now has no domestic battery recycling facilities and the majority are sent abroad, with lithium batteries incinerated as there is no current recycling route.
Rogerson added: “An estimated 600 million batteries are thrown away in landfill sites each year, enough power when used to light a torch for a million years.
“Batteries contain substances that are toxic to human health and can leach into the groundwater if they are simply thrown away with other rubbish. A strategy to ensure their safe collection is clearly long overdue.”
A draft directive by the EU has proposed that collection targets of 25% for portable batteries and 45% of the average annual sales over the past three years be set. These would be achieved four and eight years after the transposition of the directive, with the European Parliament expected to formally adopt it by mid-2006 after a further reading.