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With all European member states now working to meet collection targets set by the Batteries Directive, the UK is facing one of the toughest hurdles to hit the 2012 collection target of 25% for portable waste batteries from the 10% target achieved last year.
In several European countries the concept of recycling waste portable batteries is long established but here in the UK there is still a major job to be done in educating the general public of the need to recycle their portable waste batteries. The Battery Compliance Schemes (BCSs) have done a great job in getting recycling containers out into the marketplace and starting to build the volumes that are collected, but in spite of this, large sections of the public are still unaware of the importance of not disposing of batteries in their household waste. That education process will need to be stepped up further to ensure the UK can meet its legal obligations next year.
A more immediate challenge facing the industry is the lack of clarity surrounding the recycling efficiency targets set by the Directive. From September this year all member states are expected to comply with the recycling efficiencies but it is very difficult to do this when no-one knows how the recycling efficiency should be calculated.
While the 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, there is no official clarity on how the efficiency is to be calculated. As a result, when asked about their Recycling Efficiencies, recycling companies are giving an answer based on calculations they themselves have devised.
This issue is one of the main challenges faced by EBRA - the European Battery Recycling Association. In the last 12 months the organisation has been completely restructured to be in a stronger position to influence policymaking. With a new Board made up of six 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.
In addition to the issues arising from the Batteries Directive, EBRA's other priorities in the coming year are to promote best practice across the industry, in particular with health and safety issues. The hazardous nature of batteries means it is vital that we are vigilant in maintaining the highest possible standards and not just meet, but exceed, current legislative requirements wherever possible.
We will also be working towards a common policy concerning the safety requirements for transporting lithium batteries, a topic which has a unique set of issues that need to be addressed, and one that will become more pressing as lager batteries from hybrid vehicles reach the end of life and are sent for recycling.
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