Over 600 million batteries are used in Britain each year, an average of 21 per household, but the UK has a poor track record of recycling them. Currently only 3% of domestic (portable) batteries are recycled, with the overwhelmingly majority, 97% entering landfill. Across Europe battery recycling rates are generally much higher. According to 2008 figures from the European Battery Recycling Association, the highest domestic battery recycling rates are in Luxemburg (60%), Belgium (41.5%) and Austria (38%). The UK has the lowest rate in Western Europe although a few large European countries with have even lower rates, such as Italy (1%).
The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 came into effect on the 1st February 2010, following a European Directive. Under the new regulations the UK will have to recycle 25% of spent batteries by 2012 and 45% by 2016.
Why recycle batteries?
In addition to conserving natural resources, battery recycling is important to prevent soil and water pollution. Many household batteries contain toxic metals including lead, cadmium and mercury, which once buried, may leak into the ground causing pollution and potentially impacting human health.
Where can domestic batteries be recycled?
Every shop that sells more than 32kg of batteries each year, the equivalent of about a pack of batteries a day will now have to provide battery collection. Most shops will provide a box but larger shops may have a battery tube. The government is encouraging shops to use the ‘Be Positive’ poster. Domestic batteries will of course continue to be accepted at local authority hazardous waste sites.
Many of us have drawers of old batteries hoping we will one day use them. Why not go through them to check if any of them are spent so can be recycled. Forgotten batteries can start to leak so it’s also worth checking old electrical & electronic items.
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