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Recycling batteries

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Battery waste is one of the biggest headaches that any refuse management company faces.

It’s very easy to fling a spent battery into general waste, but this runs the risk of soil contamination and water pollution if they are sent to landfill.

That means it’s up to all of us – households, businesses and waste management organisations to ensure that the maximum number of batteries are saved from landfill and recycled responsibly.

There’s an additional problem here in the fact that not all batteries are created equal, so each type needs their own recycling regime. Car batteries – and we receive thousands of these every year – are filled with a sulphuric acid / water mix that needs its own special handling even before we can consider what to do with the metals and plastics that make up the rest of the device.

battery recycling

Even those tiny silver oxide batteries that come out of watches and toys have their own unique dangers. These are discarded in their millions, and each contain a small amount of mercury, one of the most hazardous materials known to man. Once again, these need specialist recycling to recover the contents safely.

We’re also seeing a steady increase in discarded Li-On batteries that power mobile phones, cameras and other portable devices. Fortunately, these are also recyclable.

Fortunately, the European Union passed its battery directive of 2006 that aims to increase the rate of battery recycling across the EU. Previously the UK had lagged far behind other countries on this front, but new regulations mean that we’re now catching up hand over fist. The EU regulation said that at least a quarter of batteries must be recycled by the end of last year, rising to 45% by 2016. We’re pretty sure Britain is well on target to achieve this goal.

In Britain, companies and local authorities have been enthusiastic about battery recycling. Many councils now pick up spent batteries as part of their kerbside collections, which have met with general acceptance from the public. Many shops and businesses now also collect used batteries, with most electrical retailers now having a drop-bin on premises where customers can leave unwanted batteries.

The law now states that if your business sells more than 32kg of batteries per year, then you must provide a collection facility. 32Kg isn’t many batteries at all – the equivalent of one packet per day. So if you sell batteries, then you now must also collect them.

As a recycling business, we’re please to see that new regulations are finally working and that fewer batteries are ending up in general waste. However, they still get thrown out in large numbers, so the battle is still well and truly on.

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