24th October 2011
Watch out for your batteries
With battery thefts on the increase, commercial fleet operators who become victims can soon see a big dent in their budgets from unexpected expenditure on new batteries, coupled with service disruption when a vehicle is targeted by battery thieves.
But it is not just the theft of live batteries which can rack up business costs; waste batteries are increasingly being targeted as a lucrative cash earner for the unscrupulous who ride roughshod over hazardous waste regulations in a bid to line their own pockets.
“With metal prices at a current all-time high, lead acid batteries have been identified as a nice little earner by some sections of society,” said Greg Clementson, Commercial Director for waste battery collection and recycling company, G & P Batteries. “We have come across instances where batteries are stolen almost to order and where the more daring thieves have even removed batteries from vehicles parked up rather than raiding waste battery stocks. When that occurs, the company targeted has the expense and inconvenience of downtime for the vehicle in addition to the cost of a replacement battery, which can be anything up to £150 for some commercial automotive batteries.”
With higher commodity prices, G & P has also noticed an increase in the theft of waste batteries, with the East Midlands, Gloucestershire, Avon & Somerset and South Wales being identified as particular hot spots. “We have experienced more thefts in every postcode area in the UK, but those areas in particular have been widely targeted,” said Greg Clementson.
Whilst the theft of waste batteries might not be regarded as seriously as battery thefts from vehicles, the ramifications can potentially be more far reaching. Batteries are Hazardous Waste and the producer of waste batteries has a duty of care to ensure that they are handled in accordance with strict regulations. Fail to comply and the penalties can be severe.
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.
Audit trails for waste batteries are vital and they must be removed by an Authorised Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO) or Authorised Battery Exporter (ABE).
Recent 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 maintenance outlets fleet operators who dispose of waste batteries. “With a scrap battery commanding a price of around 10% of the original purchase cost, these are now seen as a valuable commodity and we have seen instances where staff at maintenance depots have been tempted by the cash offers to turn a blind eye to the disappearance of waste batteries.
Not only is this theft, but it is also leaving the company concerned wide open to prosecution if the batteries are illegally dumped and can be traced back. So for a number of reasons it makes sense to take good care of your waste batteries,” advised Greg Clementson.