ARCHIVE: Portable batteries

Be posistive logo - recycle your batteries hereFrom 1 February 2010, if you sell more than 32kg a year of portable batteries, you will need to take back used batteries from the public free of charge.

The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations came into force on 5 May 2009 establishing a new Producer Responsibility system for the collection, treatment and recycling of waste portable, industrial and automotive batteries. This follows a Europe-wide Batteries Directive laid in 2006, which aims to increase battery recycling rates across all European member states.

Responsibility for leading the implementation of the Batteries Directive was shared between Defra and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS, formerly BERR) namely:

  • Defra leading on portable/household battery provisions (including portable batteries arising from business and industry) and on treatment provisions for all batteries
  • BIS leading on automotive/industrial batteries and single market provisions

Please note, the word ‘batteries’ refers to both disposable batteries and accumulators (rechargeable batteries).

The regulations will introduce, for portable batteries:

  • collection targets of 25% to be reached by 2012 and 45% to be reached by 2016;
  • interim collection targets to assess progress towards these targets;
  • producer responsibility for battery collection and recycling.  Producers will do this by joining a Battery Compliance Scheme (BCS) who will arrange the collection and recycling of waste portable batteries on their behalf. BCSs will also carry out publicity to inform consumers on how they can return their waste household batteries for recycling;
  • a requirement for producers who put less than 1 tonne a year of portable batteries on the market, to register with the environment agencies but not have to fund collection, treatment and recycling;
  • a requirement from February 2010, for certain retailers of portable batteries to provide a take back facility for waste batteries.

For industrial and automotive batteries:

  • prohibition of disposal of automotive & industrial batteries into landfill and incineration, therefore all industrial and automotive batteries to be recycled;
  • a requirement for producers of industrial batteries to offer free take back on all industrial batteries from end users;
  • a requirement for producers of automotive batteries to set up collection schemes for spent automotive batteries not covered under schemes established under the End of Life Vehicles Directive.

For further information on industrial and automotive batteries visit the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website.

Battery types

Portable batteries range from AAA cells, through mobile phone batteries, to button cells used in hearing aids and watches. If a battery is available for purchase by the general public or businesses, then it is likely to be portable unless it is too big to be hand-carried or is clearly an automotive or industrial battery.

Other products that use portable batteries include portable cameras, laptops, cordless power tools, toys and household appliances such as electric toothbrushes, razors and hand-held vacuum cleaners.  Portable batteries can be of mixed sizes and chemistries (e.g. alkaline, lithium, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, etc).

An industrial battery is any battery designed for exclusively industrial or professional uses or used in any type of electric vehicle.  An automotive battery is any battery used for automotive starter, lighting or ignition power.

Why recycle batteries?

Recycling batteries is important for a number of reasons. Batteries can contain chemicals such as lead, mercury or cadmium. When you dispose of them with your normal rubbish, most will end up in landfill where the chemicals they contain may leak into the ground.  This can pollute the soil and water and potentially harm human health.  

Recycling also recovers some of the materials used to make batteries and these can be used again to make other products and potentially to make new batteries.  Recycling can also save some of the earth’s natural resources and save on CO2 emissions by reducing the need to mine new materials. 

In seeking to raise our current recycling rates, these regulations will affect:

Page last modified: 1 February 2010
Page published: 5 February 2003