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Defra consults on 'portable battery' definition

Defra has launched a consultation on the definition of portable batteries and says it favours the introduction of a specific weight limit for clarity.

Proposed amendments to guidance notes for the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 aim to help interpretation of whether a battery “can be hand-carried by an average person without difficulty”.

They would remove what is seen as a “grey area” between 4kg -10kg batteries and a clear weight limit would determine whether a battery could be “hand carried” and therefore portable.

This process has been significantly held up. In November 2013, Defra delayed publication of guidance after a data error in its original consultation from the August before.

Portable battery producer obligations have been increasingly met using data for collection of the heavier lead-acid batteries.

In 2012, the proportion of obligation met by lead-acid evidence was 83%, whereas the proportion of lead-acid batteries being placed on the UK market was 8%. The tonnage of portable lead acid batteries collected for recycling significantly exceeds the declared tonnage being placed on the UK market.

Defra is concerned that in 2013 the UK collected around 470% of the tonnage of portable lead acid batteries declared as placed on the market in the same period, saying an “over-collection” of lead-acid portable batteries is caused by different definitions being applied when batteries are placed on the market compared to that applied during collection and reprocessing.

The proposed options are:

  1. Do nothing: retain current guidance
  2. A single weight threshold of 4kg for portable batteries
  3. A single weight threshold of 3kg for portable batteries

Defra prefers Option 2.

The department said the options do not affect the other components of the existing definition. Meanwhile, producers, treatment operators and exporters must continue to give consideration to the full range of factors when taking a view on whether a battery is portable or industrial.

In December 2014, MRW reported that the sector was on track to meet the portable battery collection target for 2014, with the amount of lead-acid batteries declining.

However, there were concerns in the industry that a new definition of portable battery, being considered by Defra, would result in lead-acid batteries being excluded from collection obligations, making future targets difficult to reach.

Colin Porter, compliance technical specialist at compliance scheme ecosurety, said: “ecosurety clearly welcomes the consultation on portable batteries, although we would have preferred new standards to have been agreed at the start of a compliance year rather than part way through when contacts may have already been agreed between reprocessors and schemes.

“We feel that the consultation highlights concern that the sector has had for some considerable time and it now presents the opportunity, albeit somewhat delayed since the initial consultation, to create a more accurate representation of portable battery collection in the UK”.

The consultation started 26 January and runs until 22 February.

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