2nd April 2007
Are you up to speed on battery law enforcement?
Perhaps more than any other automotive waste, battery disposal is governed by stringent and complicated legislation with potentially serious consequences for those who flout the law. As the Environment Agency warns that it is now actively enforcing the Hazardous Waste regulations, Michael Green from G & P Batteries explains what motor factors and accessory retailers need to be aware of.
The automotive industry is probably the largest user of lead acid batteries. The UK alone produces around 10 million waste lead acid batteries each year, the equivalent of 100,000 tonnes. Thanks to the scrap value of their component parts, in particular lead, more than 90% of these batteries are collected and recycled, making lead acid batteries one of the most recycled waste products in this country.
But whilst the industry can take heart that it is adopting a responsible attitude to this area of automotive waste, there is growing evidence that some garages and retailers may be failing to comply with the increasingly stringent legislation surrounding battery waste.
The legislation concerning waste batteries is quite complex and can be difficult to interpret correctly. For example, whilst new Hazardous Waste Regulations came into force in England and Wales in 2005, Scotland continues to be governed by the Special Waste Regulations 1996 and the Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004. In Northern Ireland it is a different story again, with its Hazardous Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 being broadly similar to those in Scotland but using a Consignment Note format which is similar to those used in England and Wales. So a multiple retailer operating throughout the UK could require knowledge and compliance with three different types of waste legislation. And that is only one of several pieces of legislation that waste battery producers need to be familiar with.
Current high commodity price levels have encouraged an increase in waste collectors who are more interested in the financial benefits than in complying with the necessary legislation and thus are endangering the reputations – and the pockets – of unsuspecting garages and retailers who dispose of waste batteries.
These operators may well offer an attractive price for waste batteries but it is important to check that they are fully compliant, otherwise you are risking a fine or even imprisonment. It is important to remember that in England and Wales companies that produce waste batteries must be registered with the Environment Agency and pay an annual registration fee as a producer of Hazardous Waste. Each movement of waste batteries must be accompanied by a Consignment Note signed by the waste battery producer and a fee is due to the Environment Agency. Failure to do so can attract an on the spot £300 fine per offence. The operator who removes the waste batteries from your premises must be a registered Waste Carrier. Waste producers also have a Duty of Care to ensure that their batteries are destined to be recovered or disposed of safely and in accordance with legislation.
The waste producer remains responsible for the description of the waste and its disposal. It is therefore extremely important that the type of batteries being sent for collection are adequately and accurately described and that all responsibilities towards battery waste are met.
Environmental responsibility has already taken a hold in the UK and asking consumers to share the costs of disposing of waste products from their vehicles has become morally acceptable. ‘Green’ consumers are already willing to pay extra to ensure environmentally responsible disposal of items such as tyres and exhausts, which means that currently this is a feasible option with waste batteries, too. However, this may well change when the European Batteries Directive, which is due to be published in the UK in September 2008, is finalised. There are still many issues to be discussed before the Directive is finalised, one of the most emotive being to make battery producers responsible for the cost of waste battery disposal. Reputable collection companies will be keeping a close eye on those changes to ensure that they can offer the correct advice to their customers and ensure that everyone is up to speed with the latest legislation, regulations and responsibilities.