Builders' Merchants News

Battery scheme is only partly charged up

Published:  05 June, 2009

EDGBASTON: The new battery recycling regime will be a bit more manageable for smaller retailers now that the Government has acted ... 

says trade association, the BHF Group. 

Retailers selling more than a pack of batteries a day will soon be forced to take back used batteries from their customers and the method by which this is done will impact far more on small businesses than larger ones.

The battery recycling regulations came into force on 4 May and retailers will be required to accept in-store take-back on 1 February 2010.

Suggestions from the trade association have now been incorporated into the regulations.

"Used batteries become classed as hazardous waste as soon as you put them in the boot of your car to transport them to a collection point. Our worry was that small businesses would find it difficult to participate legally, if they had to transport waste batteries at a distance," said information manager, Rebecca Abbott.

"Fortunately, the Government has listened to our suggested solution and the DfT has issued an order exempting up to 333kg of used batteries from the regulations controlling the transport of hazardous materials."

The BHF had argued that this was an important point as smaller outlets who were not obliged to take part in the scheme, might wish to opt-in, purely to do their bit for the environment.

"The Government has also raised the minimum volume of annual sales at which a retailer will be required to operate the take-back, from the proposed 16kg a year to 32kg," said Ms Abbott.

One area tstill of great concern remains. The dangers of storing and moving batteries containing lithium have not been fully worked out.

Loose lithium batteries can cause fires through friction and sparking.

BHF Group argues that simply piling up batteries of unknown condition and unknown chemical content is inherently risky, whether in a collection bin in a shop or at an open public collection point.

"The regulations are strict on the careful packing requirements of batteries intended for transport, but not on their collection and initial storage," said Ms Abbott.

"We feel that there is more work to be done before battery recycling becomes a completely practical solution to this growing environmental problem. We are calling on the Government to help properly connect up all parts of the battery life-cycle circuit."