Page last updated at 00:57 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Battery recycling rules in force for stores

Pair of AA batteries
30,000 tonnes of portable batteries enter the UK market each year

New EU rules have come into force that require some stores selling batteries to provide in-store recycling bins.

Anyone selling more than 32kg a year - equivalent to one pack of four AA batteries a day - must comply as part of targets on cutting landfill.

The UK currently recycles only 3% of portable batteries, but the aim is to raise that figure to 45% by 2016.

Battery maker Varta warned that a lack of awareness among consumers could hamper the scheme's success.

An estimated 30,000 tonnes of batteries - from those in electrical goods like torches, to rechargeable ones in mobile phones - enter the UK market each year.

At present, 97% eventually end up in landfill sites, where they can leak toxic chemicals into the soil.

The EU Batteries Directive aims to tackle that problem and cut carbon emissions by reducing the need for new batteries to be made from scratch.

'Great concern'

Retailers will be required to provide a recycling point in-store which will be regularly emptied free of charge under the government's Battery Compliance Scheme.

The hope is that this will see battery recycling levels rise to 10% by the end of this year and to 25% by 2012.

All the evidence shows home collections of recyclables produce the best results
Bob Gordon
British Retail Consortium

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "This new legislation will make it easier for consumers to do the right thing whilst ensuring retailers fulfil their part of the bargain."

But Vince Armitage, divisional vice-president of Varta, said he was concerned.

"The directive places the responsibility of meeting its stringent collection and recycling targets on the manufacturer, but it relies on the co-operation of consumers and retailers to make it work," he said.

"However, a lack of promotion means that awareness of the directive among these key groups is low.

"This gives us great concern that, as a nation, we are setting ourselves up to fail before we even begin."

Varta estimates that just meeting the 10% target will cost manufacturers £3m.

Bob Gordon, from the British Retail Consortium, said retailers were ready for the new requirements, but called for a "comprehensive and continuing" government information campaign to raise awareness among consumers.

He also said shops should not be the only route for collection, adding: "We need an infrastructure to develop which includes workplaces, schools, community centres and kerbside collection.

"All the evidence shows home collections of recyclables are easiest for customers and produce the best results. Developing these mustn't be ignored."

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