24 August 2018 by Joshua Doherty

Concern as UK continues to struggle on battery recycling target

The UK has failed to make progress in meeting battery recycling targets, with lead acid batteries continuing to make up a ‘disproportionate’ share of batteries collected for recycling, G&P Batteries has claimed.

battery recycling targets

Battery recyclers have raised concerns in the past over the high collection rate for lead acid batteries

The West Midlands-based battery sorting company has made the comments in response to figures published earlier this year, which indicate the UK has fallen short of its overall 45% collection target for waste batteries in 2017, achieving a 44.89% collection rate.

According to the figures published in May by the Environment Agency, a total of 17,427 tonnes of batteries were collected throughout the year.

This means that the overall target, which is determined based upon the volume of new batteries placed onto the market by producers every year, has been missed for a second consecutive year.

‘Over-reliance’

And, G&P has claimed that the data shows a continuing ‘over-reliance’ on the collection of lead acid batteries to reach these totals.

The final figures for 2017 showed that 9,520 tonnes of lead acid batteries were collected, out of the 17,427 total.

This means that lead acid batteries accounted for 55% of the UK’s overall collection rate, despite making up only around 4% of the total tonnage placed onto the market during that time.

“Whilst it appears that the UK has missed its recycling target by less than 1% the reality is that this country is clearly underperforming when it comes to waste battery collection and is side-stepping its obligations by apparently fudging the figures,” explained Greg Clementson, managing director of G & P Batteries.

He added: “Anyone looking closely at these figures will realise that something isn’t right and that we have a moral obligation to look into what is happening, as despite the over-reliance on lead acid batteries, we’ve actually missed the mandatory 45% target for the second consecutive year.”

battery recycling targets

The table shows that despite a jump in Q4 of 2016 and 2017, lead acid batteries are collected more than other types (click to enlarge)

Classification

At the start of 2016 a change in the classification of portable batteries came into effect to address concerns that incorrect classification of lead acid batteries could be skewing data on the number of portable batteries collected for recycling.

Recyclers had claimed that much of the overall target was being met by non-obligated batteries.

battery recycling targets

Greg Clementson called for an investigation into the figures

Portable batteries are the only category to which a recycling target has been attached – and battery recyclers had 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.

“Before the legislation was enacted, the UK already recycled 99% of its lead acid batteries and only 3% of other chemistries,” he explained.

Mr Clementson added: “The legislation was designed to encourage greater recycling of all battery types and whilst collection rates for other chemistries have improved, the Environment Agency figures clearly demonstrate that we are actually collecting fewer batteries of other chemistries rather than more.”

Further data published for the first quarter of 2018 has suggested that the UK is continuing to over-collect on lead acid batteries whilst collections of other battery chemistries continue to lag behind.

The figures, released at the start of June, showed that of the 8,000 tonnes of batteries placed on the market, around 301 were lead acid which meet the ‘portable’ classification.

But, on the collection side, of the 3,547 tonnes total that was collected, 2,219 tonnes were lead acid. This means that so far this year, lead acid batteries account for 63% of the batteries collected, while only making up 4% of that placed on the market.

The overall battery recycling rate for this year remains at around 44%.

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