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Battery Regulations: A round-up of responsibilities

The new Batteries Regulations came into force on 5 May 2009. Every ‘producer’ and ‘distributor’ must now comply. The terminology is key. The producer is not necessarily the battery manufacturer. It is whoever places it on the UK market for the first time – and so can include wholesalers (and retailers) if you import stock for sale.

Battery Regulations: A round-up of responsibilities

A distributor is anyone who supplies portable batteries on a professional basis to an enduser. Essentially, wholesale businesses can be either producer or distributor, or both, or neither. You are most likely to be a producer but you may also be a distributor.

If you import only part of your stock, you are responsible as the producer for that proportion which you are placing on the UK market for the first time.

Batteries within products also count for producers. Many products - from electric toothbrushes to mobile phones -contain them. Some are less obvious than others – for example many DVD players and all desktop PCs contain batteries, as does any product with a clock or memory that works when the power is off.

It’s really important for wholesalers to understand which of their product range contain batteries, and whether or not they have been previously placed on the UK market. If you purchase them from another wholesaler they probably have, but if you buy them direct from the manufacturer or importer, they may not.

The Batteries Directive seeks to reduce the environmental impact of batteries and accumulators and those involved in their lifecycle. The UK has a target to move from recycling 3% of portable batteries (2007 figures) to 25% (7,500 tonnes) by 2012 and to at least 45% by 2016. This must all be in line with existing controls, such as Health and Safety,Carriage of Dangerous Goods, Environmental Permitting and Hazardous Waste. For information on these, visit waste/topics/batteries/pdf/0907- advisory-note.pdf.

Producers should already comply with the requirements of last year’s Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) Regulations. These set limits for the amounts of cadmium and mercury that can be included in new batteries and impose marking requirements. You can visit for more information

All producers must now also record the weights and types of batteries they place on the UK market. In January 2010 you must report figures for 5 May to 31 December 2009, broken down by weight of lead-acid, nickel cadmium and ‘other’. If you are responsible for automotive or industrial batteries the rules are slightly different. Again, see for information.

It was previously mooted that all portable battery producers would have to join a Battery Compliance Scheme (BCS). However, in April the Government distinguished between ‘large’ and ‘small’ producers of portable batteries.

‘Large’ producers are those which place more than one tonne of portable batteries onto the UK market each year. If this applies to you, you will have to pay for the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of waste batteries in proportion to your market share. You will do this by joining a BCS, which will also register you with the appropriate environment agency (England & Wales; Scotland; or Northern Ireland). ‘Small’ producers are those which place one tonne or less of portable batteries onto the UK market each year. If this applies to your business, you will not have to pay for the collection and treatment of waste portable batteries but you must still register with your environment agency, within 28 days of the first date on or after 15 October 2009 on which you place them.

In the context of the Batteries Directive a distributor is anyone who sells batteries to an end user. This is usually a retailer but it can be a wholesaler for all or part of their business.

If this applies to you, and you sell over 32 kg of portable batteries annually to end users, you must offer a battery takeback facility from 1 February 2010. Batteries within products do not count when calculating the 32kg. You must accept any portable batteries, not just those you sell, and regardless of any purchase by the depositor. You do not, however, have to pay for their transport and treatment: approved BCSs are obliged to collect them free of charge.

If you sell less than 32kg to end users you do not have to accept waste batteries. BCSs are obliged to accept them from you if you do, but they do not have to collect them. Although some may choose to do so, it’s advisable to check before deciding to take-back batteries under these circumstances.

If you are neither the producer nor the distributor you do not have responsibilities under the directive.

There is very little time left to choose a potential BCS: at the time this magazine is published you have less than one month.

The timing is tight but with such ambitious targets the Government could not delay the process. You can see all eight applications by prospective BCSs on our website at www.environmentagency. gov. uk/batteries.

We will publish details of approved BCSs on our website as soon as possible but we strongly recommend large producers and distributors to take time now to properly evaluate potentials. Large producers must apply for membership of a BCS by 15 October 2009. Start talking to BCSs which look likely to suit your needs, and create a shortlist: your first-choice BCS may not become approved.

Producers can join any approved scheme in the UK, regardless of where they are based.
In assessing potential schemes we are paying particular attention to their planned membership, to ensure there are enough producers of portable batteries in the UK to support all approved schemes.

A fundamental requirement is that schemes have the resources to meet their obligations for at least three compliance periods - until the end of 2012.

We are also examining schemes’ proposals for collecting batteries, in terms of them being jointly able to meet the UK’s targets. The third key element we are evaluating is schemes’ proposals for collaboration.

Both the EU directive and the UK regulations require that collections take account of the negative environmental aspects of transport.

You can get further information on portable batteries at or by phoning our helpline on 08708 506506. Contact Defra regarding questions about distributor take-back. Email If you have queries on automotive or industrial batteries, then contact BIS at

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