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EverReady for the Directive

This year should see full implementation of the Batteries Directive, extending further the EU philosophy of the polluter pays for separate collection, treatment and recycling of its used products.

While consumer behaviour will be tackled, a large proportion of the electronics and retail industry - way beyond simply the manufacturers of batteries - will have to get involved too. Companies or individuals that are classified as producers of portable batteries or accumulators will have to join a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS).

Operators of these PCSs will arrange for collection, treatment and recycling of used batteries on behalf of
producers, from whom they will recover their costs. There is expected to be more than one PCS so the element of competition should allow producers to find a scheme that suits them.

Producers in this case will be any company that places batteries on the UK market for the first time. With October the likely deadline for producers to join compliance schemes, companies are advised to find out about their legal obligations sooner rather than later.

The aim of the directive is to minimise the negative impact of batteries and accumulators on the environment. This will be achieved through reducing the amount of hazardous chemical waste, particularly mercury, cadmium and lead, going to landfill while another aim is to increase the amount of these materials
being recovered. This will be tackled through several measures, including banning the sale of most batteries containing mercury and cadmium, as well as the producer responsibility obligations.

Making producers responsible for their waste products will require several detailed measures (see box below) and see the establishment of the new compliance schemes and a new register. This should help hit the UK government target of raising the collection rate rise from an estimated 3% of portable batteries in 2007, to the directive target of 25% in 2012 and further still, to 45% in 2016.

Waste Watchers
The Environment Agency will be responsible for enforcing registration of producers of portable batteries in
England and Wales. Having approved which PCSs will be able to operate, it will monitor their performance as well as industry’s compliance with the Directive. Where necessary, it will be able to act against producers who fail.

These roles very much echo what the Environment Agency does under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, which also saw the establishment of PCSs to collect electrical waste.

Given the size of the market (700 million batteries go to landfill sites each year in the UK), success of the regulations will require the participation of a huge range of businesses. As a result, the Batteries Directive has a reach into a surprising breadth of businesses, thanks to how the term producer is defined.

A producer is any person in the UK who, irrespective of the method of selling, places batteries or accumulators onto the UK market on a professional basis. This goes way beyond simply the manufacturer and can include those who import batteries, either as batteries or incorporated within (or packaged with) products.

The key point is that the Directive states that the person who puts batteries on the market is deemed the producer. Examples of what defines a producer include:

• Someone who imports batteries and sells them through a wholesale or retail operation.

• A UK-based company that makes batteries overseas and imports them for sale in the UK

• A manufacturer or seller of a battery-powered product, made either here or overseas, which is sold in the UK with a battery inside or within its packaging - providing the battery has not been placed on the UK market already.

This applies to all types of batteries, including rechargeables, in terms of both their chemical constituents and size. This will cover all brands and functions, from thin watch batteries to the heavy but powerful torch batteries. The specialist rechargeable accumulators found in mobile phones, rechargeable toothbrushes or power tools are also on the list.

Also included are the hidden, and often not easily removed, batteries in novelty items such as greetings cards, ties and toys that incorporate lights or play music. Batteries built into equipment with a clock or memory function, such as DVD recorders or desktop PCs, are also included. Importantly, in this case, even
when the product qualifies as electrical equipment and the producer is registered under the WEEE regulations, they will still need to join a PCS with regard to the battery.

Shoppers can help
In order to tackle consumers directly, all retailers of portable batteries will have to run in-store takeback
schemes, except for businesses that operate in a small shop (as defined by Sunday trading laws) and sell only a small amount of batteries, ie: beneath a limit still to be set by government. This may see PCSs collaborating with retailers to help meet their collection targets, although they will almost certainly have to make their own arrangements for collection too.

One part of industry that should find meeting the directive’s aims fairly straightforward is the producers of automotive and industrial batteries. Already, this sector recycles around 90% of its product but these producers will still have to register, although the government has yet to decide whether that will be directly or
through compliance schemes.

The next step in the process is analysing the results of a consultation on draft regulations by government,
expected to be launched at the end of 2008. Final regulations are expected to be laid in the spring, with the
environment agencies across the UK determining applications from compliance schemes over the summer.

Industry would be well advised to start establishing its status regarding the regulations and preparing for
implementation in October. This should include keeping records of the amount of batteries placed onto the UK market last year, and in 2009, as well as finding out more from prospective PCSs about services they may offer.

Although the some of the detail of the directive’s implementation may change throughout the year, the intention behind it - and the implication on your business - will not. Finding out more about the impact of the batteries directive now will put your firm in good stead to deal with this legislation effectively and with the minimum of financial penalty.

• Restrictions of the use of mercury and cadmium in batteries

• Labelling requirements for new batteries to aid consumer choice and encourage recycling

• A ban on the disposal by landfill or incineration of waste industrial and automotive batteries, in effect setting a 100% collection and recycling target for industry

• Introduction of producer responsibility obligations, including demanding targets for the collection and recycling of portable batteries

• The setting up of waste battery treatment standards

The following websites are good sources of information on the Batteries Directive:

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