Provisional figures released by the Environment Agency reveal that the UK is well on track to achieve the 2019 target, although it is not all good news.
The annual UK battery collection target for 2019 is 45% of batteries placed on the market (actually an average of those placed on the market in the last three years). The latest data shows that in 2019 the UK achieved a collection rate of 44.34%.
Whilst this is 257 tonnes short of the target, it is expected that the final figures released after 31 May, when compliance schemes have obtained all the evidence they require to meet their members' 2019 obligations, will show that the target has actually been met or exceeded, just as it was in 2018.
All good news, some might think, but a more nuanced story lurks within the figures as again lead acid batteries dominate those collected, despite being a small proportion of those actually placed on the market. It is interesting to look at the trends of placed on market (POM) vs collected figures for the two main battery categories of Lead Acid (Pb) and Other (the majority of household portable batteries).
A tale of two categories
In the graphs below the blue lines represent the tonnages placed on the market, whilst the orange lines represent the amount collected. A comparison of the ‘Pb’ and ‘Other’ trends tell a tale of imbalance and confusion.
The Pb graph shows that far more lead acid batteries were collected than placed on the market, to an astonishing order of 878% in 2019. This seeming impossibility is thought to be due to how the batteries are classified by producers when placed on the market compared to when they are collected for recycling by the reprocessor. For example, if a battery is classed as being industrial when placed on the market, but as portable when collected, the figures will simply not correlate.
This disparity with lead acid batteries masks a significant problem with the ‘other’ category, which represents the vast majority of household portable batteries, 96% of all batteries placed on the market in 2019 to be precise.
As can be seen in the graph above, the amount collected compared to those placed on the market is very poor - in 2019 only 15% of the amount placed on the market were collected. Given the quantities are so much greater in this category compared to any other, it is deeply concerning.
It is easy to see the overall target which combines the results from all the battery categories together and pat ourselves on the back, but once the lead acid disparity is removed it is abundantly clear that we desperately need to improve how portable household batteries are collected to meet the UK target in a meaningful way.
Robbie Staniforth, head of policy at Ecosurety, commented “There is due to be a public consultation on the batteries regulations this year. After years of highlighting the mismatch between the types of batteries sold and recycled, we hope Defra improve this issue by amending the regulations. We have made a number of different revision suggestions over the years but there has not been enough resource or appetite within Government to take action until now."
"The environment is now high on the public, and therefore political, agenda. We hope Defra will continue to be supported by the Secretary of State and ministers to address this fundamental problem.”
Helping to reduce the impact of batteries
Ecosurety has a UK-wide battery collection network and producers can order a battery collection pack or collection using our easy online form.
In November 2019 Ecosurety also launched their Exploration Fund, a £1m fund to back innovation and research projects that can reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or WEEE. The winning projects will be selected in April and announced in May.
Marketing projects specialist
Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.