by Alan Kirk
23 April 2009
Forthcoming legislation will affect the disposal of batteries in the workplace as well as the home when it is introduced in 2010. Understanding the nature of the new regulations and their implications now will help businesses put themselves in a stronger position when the new legislation comes into force next year.
The UK recycles only 2 per cent of consumer batteries and around 600 million UK household batteries are sent to landfill each year. There is 50 to 500 times more energy consumed in manufacturing batteries than is made available in using them and a rechargeable battery generates 50 times more energy than it takes to make.
In September 2006, the European Union published the Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators Directive 2006/66/EC (the "Batteries Directive") aimed at reducing the quantity of waste batteries going to landfill and increasing the recycling and recovery of these wastes. The emphasis of the Batteries Directive is on producer responsibility, like the preceding Packaging and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Weee) Directives.
The Batteries Directive applies to all types of batteries, and it sets targets for the collection and recycling of transportable, industrial and automotive batteries. Facilities managers will be primarily affected by the targets for transportable batteries, 25 per cent of which are to be recycled by September 2012, and 45 per cent to be recycled by September 2016.
All member states were required to transpose the Batteries Directive into national law by 26 September 2008. In December 2007, the government sought views on the implementation of the directive, publishing their response to this consultation in July last year. It was expected that the legislation would be in place by the September 2008 deadline, but the government carried out a second consultation that closed on 13 February of this year. Defra has indicated that the regulations will be published this spring or summer and will take effect from 2010, having implications for manufacturers, distributors and users of batteries.
Current waste and environmental legislation requires that certain batteries be treated as hazardous waste, that is, either sent to hazardous waste landfill sites or recycling facilities. Batteries containing mercury or cadmium would fall into this category, with both of these metals being toxic.
The exact implications of the forthcoming regulations will not become apparent until their publication later this year, but what is known is that battery users (and therefore the producers of battery waste), will be responsible for determining whether or not their products fall within the parameters of the legislation.
When the new legislation does take effect, it will no longer be legal to place any batteries in the general waste; batteries will need to be treated as a separate individual waste stream. Recycling of all batteries will be encouraged in order to meet the targets set by the Batteries Directive, but it is likely that they will continue to be accepted at hazardous waste landfill sites.
Whatever the legislation, best practice dictates that battery use and disposal should be in line with the waste hierarchy - reduce, reuse, recycle. Where possible, staff should be encouraged to use mains electricity: the environmental impact is far lower than in the production and use of batteries. Where this is not possible, rechargeable batteries should be used. The disposal of waste batteries in the general waste stream should be avoided and an approved recycling and recovery service provider should always be used.
Rolling out recycling
Those experienced in setting up and managing successful recycling schemes will know that clear communication combined with an easy-to-use scheme are critical to success. Battery segregation and collection points should be easily accessible with clear signage visible to staff, suppliers and visitors. Awareness of the battery recycling scheme should be raised through a number of the communication channels available in the workplace, including staff Intranet, internal newsletters, posters on notice boards, emails and meetings. Explaining why the battery recycling scheme is being implemented and what happens to those batteries can help ensure staff buy-in. Implications for cleaners should always be considered to ensure that the batteries that staff recycle do not end up back in the general waste stream.
Finally, regular battery collections should be arranged through a reputable provider - waste and environmental legislation states that the waste producer has a duty of care to ensure their waste is transferred to an authorised person.
Dr Alan Kirk is environmental manager at recycling and waste management company Bywaters
Requirements and best practice in briefLast year saw a drastic shake-up of the way we bring in workers from outside the UK and, in particular, the introduction of the new points-based immigration system in the UK. Migrants now fall into five tiers:
The Batteries Directive sets targets for recycling of transportable, industrial and automotive batteries:
The corresponding UK regulations are expected to be published this spring or summer and take effect from 2010
Batteries will need to be treated as a separate, individual waste stream. It will be illegal to place batteries in the general waste
Use and disposal of batteries should be in line with the waste hierarchy
Setting up and managing a successful battery recycling scheme requires clear communication and ease of use