4 November 2015 by Will Date

Battery recycling costs expected to shoot up

The cost of collecting and processing waste portable batteries is expected to increase to around £1,400 per tonne from 2016, as a result of changes to the way waste batteries are classified, Defra has claimed.

Changes to the way that manufacturers and recyclers classify portable batteries are being brought in to bring the UK in-line with other EU Member States and will see waste batteries weighing more than 4kg no longer classed as ‘portable’ (see letsrecycle.com story).

Changes to the way that lead acid batteries are classified are being made

Changes to the way that lead acid batteries are classified are being made

The 4kg threshold, which is expected to apply from January 2016, followed a drawn out consultation process into the guidance on battery recycling, which has lasted close to two years.

During the original consultation, Defra predicted that the cost of collecting and processing waste portable batteries would increase from £1,050 to up to £1,150 per tonne, as a result of the changes.

However, this figure has been “revised up significantly” by Defra – and is now expected to add up to around £33 million over 10 years – more than the £7.8 million figure previously anticipated by the Department.

Largely, the increase in costs will be borne by battery producers through the producer compliance system.

Costs

Outlining its forecast in its impact assessment on the changes, the Department said: “This £1,400 figure has been revised up significantly following the consultation when it was estimated to be £1,150. This is because the industry, having had more time to estimate the costs and the split between lead and non-lead batteries, now anticipates much higher collection and processing costs than before the consultation.”

It is likely that a greater volume of portable batteries will need to be collected and recycled to meet targets from 2016

It is likely that a greater volume of portable batteries will need to be collected and recycled to meet targets from 2016

Portable batteries are the only category to which a recycling target has been attached – and battery recyclers have long argued that as they are often unaware of the original use of some lead acid batteries, it is impossible to determine if they fall into the industrial or portable classification.

Therefore, it has been suggested that incorrect classification of lead acid batteries could be skewing data on the number of portable batteries collected for recycling.

According to Defra, 83% of the UK’s battery recycling obligation in 2012 was met through the collection of lead acid batteries, despite them making up just 8% of the new batteries placed onto the market.

With the change coming into effect it is expected that greater effort will need to be made to increase the capture of lighter portable batteries – including those typically discarded by householders – in order to meet the targets.


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