Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations

The regulatory implications for producers and distributors of batteries and accumulators are set out below. It includes information on battery categories, compliance schemes and how to become an Approved Battery Treatment Operator or Exporter

Producer responsibilty and batteries

Producer responsibility means that the business first placing the battery or product containing a battery, onto the UK market is responsible for the costs of recycling. 

In May 2009, the UK placed into law the full producer responsibility portions of the directive which deal with recycling targets and the mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the new recycling targets are met.

Under the terms of the Waste Battery and Accumulator Regulations 2009 , producers will have to put a collection network in place to recycle batteries and inform the public about that network.

Batteries and Accumulators Directive

The Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators Directive (2006/66/C) include the following provisions:

  • restrictions on the use of mercury and cadmium in batteries
  • labelling requirements for new batteries to aid consumer choice and recycling
  • a 25% collection rate for waste portable batteries to be met by September 2012, rising to 45% by September 2016
  • a prohibition on the disposal by landfill or incineration of waste industrial and automotive batteries – in effect setting a 100 collection and recycling target
  • the introduction of 'producer responsibility' obligations
  • the setting of recycling efficiencies to ensure that a high proportion of the weight of waste batteries is recycled

Amended Batteries Directive

The Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 transpose Directive 2013/56/EU (the 2013 Directive) amending Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (the 2006 Directive).

The 2013 Directive removes certain exemptions from the prohibitions in the 2006 Directive on the placing on the market of a battery containing more than 0.0005% of mercury by weight and a battery containing more than 0.002% of cadmium by weight.

The exemptions removed by the 2013 Directive relate to the placing on the market of button cells with a mercury content of no more that 2% by weight and of portable batteries intended for use in cordless power tools. The 2013 Directive also amends provisions in the 2006 directive relating to the removability of waste batteries from appliances.

Battery categories

The chemistry of a battery refers to the chemicals used within it to provide the charge. When manufacturers describe their battery as Alkaline or NI-CAD they are describing the chemistry. There are 3 categories of battery listed below:

Portable batteries

The UK currently uses around 30,000 tonnes of portable batteries per year. These come in a variety of sizes, and more importantly, chemistries.

The current portable battery recycling rate in the UK is very low at around 3%. The new regulations set a challenging target of 25% recycling by 2012 and 45% by 2016. The recycling of portable batteries will be paid for by large producers, who will have to put in place a network of collection sites, or other means of collection to meet the recycling targets. This will be done through Battery Compliance Schemes.

Battery collection for recycling will be free of charge to consumers.

Automotive batteries

The term 'automotive batteries' refers to the batteries used in motor vehicles for the purposes of starting the vehicle, and powering the lights and indicators. They are sometimes referred to as SLI batteries (Starter, Lights, and Indicator) and are currently almost exclusively lead-acid batteries.

Due to the high levels of lead in these batteries, there has traditionally been a high recycling rate, currently around 95%. The current proposals for the UK regulations aim to support this level of recycling, while putting in place a mechanism for supporting the market if the value of the trade falls substantially.

Industrial batteries

Industrial batteries cover a wide range of battery and accumulator uses. Some examples of these are:

  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)
  • batteries in solar-powered road signs
  • batteries designed to actually power a vehicle

Industrial batteries can come in a wide range of chemistries and under the new regulations, they will be subject to producer take-back. The company that supplied the battery (or equipment containing a battery) will have to arrange for the recycling of that battery.

Producers and distributors

Producers

Under the Waste Batteries and Accumulator Regulations 2009 a Producer is defined as:

"any person in the United Kingdom that, irrespective of the selling technique used, including by means of distance communication as defined in Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts(d), places batteries, including those incorporated into appliances or vehicles, on the market for the first time in the United Kingdom on a professional basis"

Portable batteries

In Northern Ireland, producers that manufacture or incorporate under 1 tonne of portable batteries will be required to register online with us using the National Waste Packaging Database.

Producers manufacturing or incorporating more than 1 tonne will be required to join a Battery Compliance Scheme. They will need to pay for the recycling of batteries equalling a set percentage of the batteries that they place on the market. This figure is 25% by 2012 and 45% by 2016.

Automotive and industrial batteries:

Producers that manufacture or incorporate Automotive or Industrial batteries in any quantity will be required to register directly with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). This is also done using the National Packaging Waste Database.

Producers manufacturing both Automotive/Industrial batteries and over 1 tonne of Portable Batteries will register with a Battery Compliance Scheme, but will also need to report directly to BIS.

Distributors

A Distributor is defined in the regulations as:

"a person that provides batteries on a professional basis to an end user"

From 1st February 2010, any distributor who supplies more than 32kg of portable batteries will have to take back waste portable batteries, and inform end-users of the availability of take back at the point of sale. They cannot charge for this service or require end-users to buy a new battery, however they can request free collection of those waste batteries from a Battery Compliance Scheme.

Specific amendments have been made to the Northern Ireland Waste licensing regulations to facilitate the collection of waste batteries.

Battery compliance schemes

All Producers manufacturing or incorporating over 1 tonne of portable batteries per annum must join a Battery Compliance Scheme pay for the recycling of batteries equalling a set percentage of the batteries that they place on the market. This figure is 25% by 2012 and 45% by 2016.

Battery Compliance Schemes (BCS) are the primary bodies involved with the recycling of Portable Batteries under the Battery Regulation’s. They are responsible for ensuring that the battery recycling targets are met on behalf of their members.

The Process:

The BCS will have networks in place to collect portable batteries from end–users and they will also accept batteries taken back by distributors. All Portable Batteries accepted by a Battery Compliance Scheme will then need to be treated by an Approved Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO) or exported through an Approved Battery Exporter (ABE) and then treated.

Batteries will have to be treated to accepted standards regardless of where they are treated.

Approved Battery Treatment Operators and Exporters

All portable batteries accepted by a Battery Compliance Scheme (BCS) must be treated by an Approved Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO) or exported for treatment through an Approved Battery Exporter (ABE). All Automotive and Industrial Batteries must also be treated by an ABTO or exported for treatment through an ABE.

All batteries will have to be treated to accepted European standards regardless of where they are treated. ABTOs and overseas sites that ABEs send waste batteries to will have to meet local Waste licensing requirements.

How to apply to become an ABTO or an ABE

Applications can be made through the National Waste Packaging Database (NPWD). Organisations can apply at any time of the year but any approval will only apply until the end of that calendar year. Guidance on the approval process is available on the NPWD

An ABTO will be licensed to treat Portable, or Automotive and Industrial Batteries or both. All ABTOs and ABEs must report the amount of waste batteries treated or exported in that year. ABTOs and ABEs treating or exporting Portable batteries will be able to issue evidence notes on waste batteries.

More useful links

You can contact the batteries team using the link below:

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