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EU battery collection target ‘too ambitious’?

Europe – Achievement of a 45% battery collection rate by 2016 will remain ‘a challenge’ for most EU member states, according to the European Portable Battery Association (EPBA). The organisation predicts that ‘only a dozen countries’ will be able to realise the target, saying success will depend on clarification of the definition of ‘portable battery’ as well as collection schemes’ operational performance.

Despite data indicating that at least seven countries exceeded the 45% collection target in 2012 and encouraging collection volume increases in other countries, the EPBA has reiterated its concerns that such a goal may be ‘too ambitious’ after all. The association points out that over 72 000 tonnes of waste portable batteries were collected in Europe last year, yielding an average collection rate of 35%.

‘Available data suggest that only three European Economic Area members are likely to report having missed the 25% collection target in 2012,’ notes the association. ‘These are Cyprus, Malta and Romania – whose schemes started only in 2012.’

Disputed rates

An ongoing problem is that the definition of ‘portable battery’ is deemed to be largely open to interpretation. The UK, for example, faces ‘disputed’ collection rates owing to the fact that lead-acid batteries made up a ‘disproportionate amount’ of all batteries collected in 2012 (83% of only 8% put on the market). The EPBA believes the removal of lead batteries from the calculation would have resulted in a collection rate of 13% rather than the reported 27%.

Collection of these lead batteries is driven by their ‘abundant availability’ (twice the volume by weight of all portable batteries on the market) and higher material value. Other factors are their significantly lower collection costs and the ‘impossibility’ of identifying whether they were placed on the market as portable batteries or not.

The ‘ideal’ scenario

‘To avoid distortion of competition within the community, the clarification of the term ”portable battery” would ideally be provided at EU level,’ the EPBA reasons. Other options for meeting the 2016 target include additional sorting of municipal solid waste or allowing the 10 member states subject to derogations under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive also to have derogated battery targets.

At present, the European Commission is conducting a ‘fitness check’ on the Batteries Directive to determine its effect to date. More details of this review can be found in the report on this year’s International Congress for Battery Recycling, which will appear in the October issue of ‘Recycling International’.


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