What makes a battery 'portable'? Until now, guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on the topic hasn't been entirely clear, but its consultation published today on proposed changes to Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 aims to provide a clearer classification framework.
Defra proposes that a portable battery be defined by an upper weight limit of 4kg, and anything which weighs in over that should not be included in recycling targets.
Currently, in the UK, batteries are classified as portable if they are sealed, can be carried by hand without difficulty, and are neither for automotive nor industrial use.
It suggests that the new guidelines come into force from January 1 2016.
If changes in the consultation are approved, it is predicted that there will be an increase in the number of non-lead batteries that need to be recycled to meet the EU recycling target, which requires 45% of portable batteries to be collected by the end of 2016. To meet the target, Defra has calculated that the increased costs in collection and processing could rise to around £7.8 million over 10 years.
Portable batteries are the only category to which a recycling target has been attached.
Battery recyclers say that because they are often unaware of how a lead acid battery was originally used, it's impossible to categorise them as either industrial or portable.
The end result is that many lead acid batteries are classified as portable, inflating the number of them that are counted toward recycling targets compared to the amount brought to market by producers. According to Defra, 83% of the UK’s battery recycling obligation in 2012 was achieved through the collection of lead acid batteries, even though they made up 8% of new batteries on the market.
Current regulations include a 4kg -10kg “grey area” which will be removed to allow for a clear weight limit to determine what allows a battery to be carried by hand.
Defra has said that the changes will not affect the other components of the existing definition and it will remain important for both producers, treatment operators and exporters to give consideration to the full range of factors when taking a view on whether a battery is portable or industrial.
A previous consultation carried out in 2013 was abandoned after a mistake was found in the consultation documents. Recyclers and compliance schemes have been waiting until now for the new proposed changes, though originally they were told that these would be announced in Spring 2014.
Stakeholders have until February 22 to comment on the proposals.
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