Q1 battery data shows ‘positive start’ to 2021

Statistics for the first quarter of 2021 suggest the UK is on track to meet its portable battery recycling targets, though compliance specialists continue to warn of a reliance on lead acid batteries.

Batteries from small mixed WEEE

According to figures published by the Environment Agency on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) on 26 May, a total of 4,924 tonnes of batteries were collected in the UK between January and March 2021.

Battery recycling
Table shows waste portable batteries collected by battery compliance schemes. Tonnages were rounded to the nearest whole number

The UK target collection tonnage for 2021 is 45% of the average annual amount of portable batteries placed on the UK market by compliance scheme members and small producers in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

So far this year, 9,524 tonnes of portable batteries have been placed on the market. The indicative UK obligation for 2021 using estimates based on the first quarter is 17,524 tonnes.

This means 28% of the estimated obligation has already been collected, ahead of target.

Robbie Staniforth, head of innovation and policy at producer compliance scheme Ecosurety, told letsrecycle.com: “It looks like a positive start to the year for producers, with the amount of batteries placed on to the market in quarter one much higher than the same period in 2019 or 2020.

“Collections and recycling look broadly similar to previous years, indicating that the UK is roughly on track to meet the target.

“However, we hope the governments’ consultations later this year will provide additional stimulus to the recycling market that has stagnated over the past few years.

“We see greater levels of citizen engagement in recycling year-on-year, which needs to be complemented by regulatory signals.”

Lead acid

Of the 9,524 tonnes of portable batteries placed on the market in 2021, 246 were lead acid, 96 were nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd) and 9,182 were ‘other’.

Battery recycling
Concerns remain that the high number of lead acid batteries in the figures masks the fact not enough portable household batteries were collected

In terms of the 4,924 tonnes of waste portable batteries collected by compliance schemes, 3,752 were lead acid, 91 were Ni-Cd and 1,081 were other.

Jon Clement, head of procurement at compliance scheme Valpak, told letsrecycle.com: “Q1 2021 illustrated some significant highs and lows. The ‘other’ category had the highest Q1 POM since the operational implementation of the portable battery regulations, whilst collections were still impacted by Covid restrictions in numbers at HWRCs and continued closure of non-essential retail.

“This led to a strong reliance on use of lead acid evidence, the highest return rate for any quarter to date as POM was relatively low compared to previous first quarters.”

Concerns remain that the high number of lead acid batteries in the figures masks the fact not enough portable household batteries were collected.

Mr Clement added: “Despite the overall increase in sales for Q1, the UK is still forecast to meet the target, but with continued reliance on the imbalance of lead acid evidence versus POM, which is still to be addressed.

“This again highlights the need for schemes to continue to grow non-lead sources of portable batteries.”

2020

Figures published by the Environment Agency in February this year suggested the UK exceeded its 2020 battery target by 290 tonnes.

The data showed the UK collected 17,728 tonnes of batteries in 2020, having targeted 17,438 tonnes. This meant the collection rate for batteries stood at 45.75% in 2020, up from 44.34% in 2019.

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