26th August 2011
LACK OF CLARITY IN EUROPE OVER BATTERY RECYCLING EFFICIENCY TARGETS
By Michael Green, Managing Director, G & P Batteries.
A vital element of the legislation concerning the EU Batteries Directive is still not clarified, less than a month before all member states are due to start compliance.
Confusion still surrounds the calculation method for the Recycling Efficiency for waste batteries, in spite of the 26th September deadline looming for the targets to be complied with. We understand that the UK is faced with writing new legislation that waives prosecution for companies which do not comply until the efficiency calculation method is clarified.
Battery recycling efficiency is a complicated subject. Whilst the targets set for recycling percentages are very clear, with 75% of useful material to be salvaged from nickel cadmium batteries, 65% from lead acid batteries and 50% from others, what is lacking is any clarity on how the efficiency is to be calculated.
For example, it has not been decided whether the efficiency should be calculated based on the weight of batteries as received, or whether the water content of the batteries should be discounted (and complex technical arguments are made as to why this should be).
Depending on which method is used for calculating the Recycling Efficiency, the results can be dramatically different. This is just one small example in a whole host of technical issues which still need to be finalised.
As Chairman of EBRA, the European Battery Recycling Association, I am aware of how important this clarification is for our members and how much frustration exists at the continuing impasse. In the last 12 months EBRA has been completely restructured to be in a stronger position to influence policymaking. With a new Board made up of 6 members from five European countries, we now have a much better finger on the pulse of industry concerns across Europe and can be sure we are representing Europe-wide issues when we lobby stakeholders.
Meanwhile, at G & P we recognise that our customers are very interested in the standards of recycling we achieve through our chosen recycling partners. We have sent all batteries collected for recycling for many years and will continue to do so. We do not dispose of batteries in any way other than by recycling. We also spend a lot effort ensuring that the optimum recycling routes are used, both environmentally and commercially. Our recycling partners are chosen because we fully expect them to be able to meet or exceed the Recycling Efficiency targets once they are set.
It is disappointing that the recycling efficiency targets have not been clarified, as in the UK we are facing particular challenges in achieving collection targets set by the regulations. A lack of clarity over the recycling standards makes it even more difficult to tell consumers what is happening to their batteries and how well we are doing in achieving the environmental standards set.
But whilst the recycling efficiencies remain unclear, the actual collection targets for portable battery recycling are very clear indeed. The UK appears to have met its collection target of 10% for 2010 and has a steep rise to 18% for this year, with the first major target of 25% collection looming in 2012. By 2016 we will be required to be collecting 45% of portable waste batteries.
With those challenging targets in mind, what we really need is a straightforward, simple measure we can tell our customers, and long drawn-out complex legislative arguments about standards do not help in efforts to convince people why they should be putting their batteries out for recycling.
Put together, all these various factors certainly make for challenging times for battery producers and recyclers.