The EU is to re-classify portable batteries with a single weight threshold of 3Kg to overcome discrepancies in portable and industrial battery classifications for recycling.
Recycling targets introduced in the UK in 2010 to increase recycling of portable batteries have been skewed by the inclusion of larger batteries. Collectors have included automotive and industrial lead-acid batteries in the targets, which bump up numbers.
The grey area surrounds the definition of a portable battery: anything over 10kg is industrial, under 4kg is considered portable but between these two figures producers can decide whether it is classed as portable or industrial.
This lack of clarity meant larger lead-acid batteries – that are already widely recycled – were included with the collections. In 2012, 3 000 tonnes of portable lead-acid batteries were on the market but 9 000 tonnes were reported as being collected as waste. The discrepancy of 6 000 tonnes means the recycling figures lose all credibility.
The EU has a portable battery-recycling target of 45% for 2016; to meet this in the UK will require double the current collection rate.
Batteries that are now classified as non-portable will continue to be recycled at exceptionally high rates in the UK, as in the rest of Europe.