Approaching a billion (1000 million) batteries are sold in the UK each year, of which 99% are not collected separately. Some European countries collect over 50%, and new EU legislation will require us to achieve similar levels. Many batteries contain toxic or corrosive materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium. But members of the European Parliament voted in April 2004 to ban cadmium in batteries: this would effectively mean an end to nickel-cadmium (NiCad) rechargeable batteries - alternatives are available.
A dry cell battery requires fifty times more energy to make than it gives out. Batteries range from tiny button cells to huge items used in heavy industry. Primary batteries are designed to be thrown away when they have become exhausted; secondary batteries can be recharged.
Whilst the lead acid batteries used in industry and vehicles are routinely and efficiently recycled (being collected at garages, scrap metal facilities, civic amenity sites and many recycling centres), most other kinds (20,000 tonnes a year) once used up, now go to landfill, where leading may occur. If batteries are incinerated, metals can be spread through the air as fine particles and vapours.
There are considerable problems with current recycling technology for general purpose (non-rechargeable) batteries, as efficient separation and collection of the many different kinds of battery is difficult, and even 5 parts per million of mercury can prevent effective recycling. The battery industry in the UK has now eliminated mercury from their own products, although small numbers of batteries containing mercury are still imported from places such as the Far East. Once these batteries are no longer found in the waste stream, the way will be open for more effective recycling to take place.
REBAT was established in September 1998 by a consortium of some 50 companies involved in the power tool, mobile phone and emergency lighting industries to manage the collection of the main types of portable rechargeable batteries in the UK. REBAT freephone hotline 0800 783 3516. Website, www.redtoo.co.uk, describes types of battery and lists UK collectors.
Check with the manufacturer of your batteries to see if they are operating a scheme. The power-tool manufacturers already have a system of service centres nationwide and accept power-tool batteries for recycling from any manufacturer in the scheme. Contact the BBMA (see below) for details.
There are recycling facilities in France and Switzerland, and some manufacturers arrange for some of their spent products to be exported there. SNAM (Société Nouvelle d'Affinage des Métaux) is the French company operating a recycling plant processing ni-cad, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion batteries including those collected in the UK (see entry below). DEFRA hopes a UK battery reprocessing plant in the West Midlands will be operational in early 2005, capable of recycling 1500 tonnes per annum of alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/topics/batteries/batteries-faqs.htm
Environmentally, the best advice would appear to be to use mains electricity wherever possible, (or clockwork or solar-powered devices, if available). Where rechargeable batteries can be used for small portable devices (they are not suitable for all uses) they are more energy efficient over their lifetime than other kinds. They can be more expensive to buy initially but cheaper to run in the long term, as they can last for up to 1,000 charges or so, each charge costing only a few pence for electricity. But nickel-cadmium rechargeables are the most toxic found in the home and when they expire, should be returned by post to the manufacturer (some have freepost addresses), not put in the bin.
NiMH rechargable cells may be the 'greenest' and best solution for bike lighting. It is important to promote alternatives to single-use batteries, not just recycle them.
Silver oxide button cells (as used in cameras) are taken by jewellers; mercuric oxide cells used in some hearing aids are collected by NHS hospitals. Do not buy a car battery from a supplier who will not take your old one for recycling.
Metallics, Plastic and Rubber 40
Common metals - ferrous and non-ferrous 41
Alphabetical list of organisations
AllBatteries (UK) Ltd
Tel 01923 770044 Fax 01923 779297
Unit 11, Byfleet Industrial Estate, Olds Approach, WATFORD, Herts WD1 8QY
Collection of spent ni-cad rechargeable batteries for shipment to recycling plants.
Bosch Power Tools
Tel 01895 834466 Fax 01895 838388
PO Box 98, Broadwater Park, North Orbital Road, Denham, UXBRIDGE, Middx UB9 5HJ
Cordless power tool manufacturer with point of sale exchange scheme for spent rechargeable battery packs.
British Battery Manufacturers Association (BBMA)
Tel 0207 838 4800 Fax 0207 838 4801 Website www.bbma.co.uk
26 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0GT
Trade Association representing the manufacturers of portable batteries, both primary (non-rechargeable) and secondary (rechargeable). Formed in 1986. Members are Duracell, Energizer (Ever Ready), Panasonic, Philips, Rayovac, Saft, Sanyo, Varta. Active in the establishment of REBAT (see below). Chart of battery types and history of batteries on website. (Updated Feb 2004)
Britannia Refined Metals Ltd
Tel 01474 351188 Fax 01474 334013
Botany Road, Northfleet, GRAVESEND, Kent DA11 9BG
Major lead and silver refining company, with about 60% of the British market in reprocessing scrap lead acid batteries. This includes reuse of the acid waste, and recycling polypropylene casings.
BT Consumer & Environmental Programmes
Tel 0207 728 8807 Fax 0207 728 8589
Procter House, 103 West Block, 100-110 High Holborn, LONDON WC1V 6LD
Environmental policy group, developing improved practice for handling the company's very substantial volumes of waste, reducing energy use and travel. In association with ECTEL (European Telecommunications Industry Body), a pilot mobile phone recycling initiative has been launched.
Tel 01992 441636
Pindar Road, HODDESDON, Herts
Accepts car batteries - no minimum amount.
Dotara Recycling Ltd
Tel 0208 201 9711 Fax 0208 201 9259
Collection of ni-cad batteries which are sent to SNAM in France. Minimum quantity 500 - 600kg.
Draper Tools Ltd
Tel 01703 266355 Fax 01703 260784
Hursley Road, Chandlers Ford, EASTLEIGH, Hants SO53 1YF
Cordless power tool manufacturer with point of sale exchange scheme for spent rechargeable battery packs.
Duracell Industrial Products
Tel 01293 517527 Fax 01293 521697
Hazelwick Avenue, Three Bridges, CRAWLEY, West Sussex RH10 1FQ
Battery manufacturer with recycling scheme for certain own brand spent rechargeable battery packs returned by consumers.
Ever Ready Recycling Division
Freepost LOL 2311, DUNSTABLE, Beds LU5 4Y
Ni-cad battery manufacturer undertaking recycling of own brand spent products mailed to them by consumers via facility operated by SNAM in Energiser Ever Ready France.
F Murphy Alloys Ltd
Tel 01277 841040 Fax 01277 841361
Templewood Estate, Stock Road, CHELMSFORD, Essex CM2 8LA
Processor of lead acid batteries. Also lead trader.
G & P Batteries Ltd
Tel 0121 568 3200 Fax 0121 568 3201 Email email@example.com Website www.g-pbatt.co.uk
Crescent Works Industrial Park, Willenhall Road, Darlaston, WEDNESBURY, West Midlands WS10 8JR
Contact Mike Green, Managing Director
Collection and recycling of all types of waste battery. Largest UK collector of lead acid batteries, operating a nationwide battery bank scheme using 20 vehicles. Has an environmental policy statement and has met ISO14001. Chosen by REBAT (see below) to manage battery collection and transportation to the recyclers. Recycling routes are in place for the following battery types: Lead Acid, recycled in UK; Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride, Lithium Ion, Alkaline, Zinc Carbon, all recycled in France. Only type with no current economic recycling route is the primary (single use) lithium battery, which is sent for safe disposal. New recycling routes, aiming for more economic recycling, are being developed - not by G&P necessarily, but it is in touch with the industry on environmental and economic sustainability. With JBR Recovery Services Limited (see sections 43, 64), G&P is part of Recycling Services Group. (Updated Feb 2004)
KGR Metals Ltd
Tel 0161 794 9646 (7am-7pm) Mobile (24 hours) 07718 743282 Fax 0871 7335247
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web www.kgr-metals.co.uk
Unit 4, Leverbridge Mills, Radcliffe Road, BOLTON, Lancs BL3 1RU
Contact Kevin English, email@example.com
Metals processing and recycling centre, specialising in aluminium (including toll conversion), foil and steel cans. Also receives batteries, aerosol cans, computer hardware, and electric cable. Serves businesses and communities locally and nationally, from multinationals and local authorities to small businesses. Scrap metal collection from can banks at amenity and community waste sites. Printed circuit boards and low end computer equipment are recycled to recover copper, other precious metals, and the boards themselves. Materials are weighed and checked before the laboratory analyses each metal for the best form of re-use, and to ensure quality specifications. Operates a public weighbridge. Fleet vehicles supply nationwide collection and delivery, including a "just in time" service. Free estimates. Website's information section includes advice, facts and graphs on recycling of UK domestic and industrial metals. (Updated Jan 2004)
Loddon Holdings Ltd
Tel 01420 587236 Fax 01420 588628
Unit A, Farringdon Business Park, Gosport Road, Farringdon, ALTON, Hants GU34 3DT
Handling agent for SNAM (Societe Nouvelle d'Affinage des Metaux), a French company operating a recycling plant for ni-cad and nickel-metal hydride batteries (see editorial at top of this page.) Loddon also recycles lead acid batteries.
Tel 0208 543 3131
565 Kingston Road, Wimbledon, LONDON SW20 8SA
Supply Sony ni-cad battery power packs for use by broadcasting industry. Arrangement for return of exhausted units for recycling.
ReBat (British Battery Manufacturers Association)
Tel 0207 838 4800 Fax 0207 838 4801 Websites www.rebat.com www.redtoo.co.uk
26 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W OGT
REBAT (REcycling BATteries) is an initiative managed by the British Battery Manufacturers Association (BBMA) (see above) to encourage separate collection of spent nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries in the UK (which are categorised as special waste) for recovery or disposal. This is required under European legislation, to reduce the quantity in household waste. When future EU legislation requires collection of all portable batteries, REBAT will extend its remit to manage all types. REBAT indicates its collection targets to the DTi, who inform the European Commission. There are many company collection schemes in the UK. The website lists UK collectors and describes types of battery.
To dispose of NiCd batteries responsibly, first seek guidance from the battery vendor or manufacturer - BBMA website lists major battery/appliance manufacturers and distributors. REBAT arranges for rechargeable batteries to be reprocessed. REBAT selected G&P Batteries (seeabove) as its recommended operator to manage battery collection and transportation to the recyclers. G&P operates the UK's largest nationwide scrap lead acid battery collection service. (Updated Apr 2004)
Nouvelle d'Affinage des Métaux, France)
Star Refining (London) Ltd
Tel 0845 262 0069 / 0207 242 0009 Fax 0207 430 2760
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.starrefining.com
PO Box 31, LONDON EC1N 8WG or PO Box 81, STANMORE HA7 3YQ
Contact Terri Phillips, Marketing Department
Receives silver oxide button cell batteries. Leading collector of scrap from the retail and manufacturing jewellery business. UK's largest collector and processor of dental scrap, and largest collector of waste amalgam. Uses modern technology for independent analytical reporting and impartial analysis of scraps. Receives and smelts bench sweeps, lemels and bench grindings, fine gold and silver, gold-plated watch bands, platinum/palladium, polishings, and silver and gold solder. Also takes vacuum bags from bench suction systems, and carpets and flooring. Services pottery, optical, computers, aerospace, medical, automotive, and other general industries using precious materials in manufacture. No shipment too small or large. Processed over 10,000 kilos of waste amalgam, and received and processed over 300 parcels of dental scrap per week in 1999. Website includes current metals prices updated daily. Sister company to Maker Mends jewellery repairers (see 43 Precious metals). (Updated July 2004)
Tel 01322 333046 Fax 01322 333858
Email email@example.com Website www.vintonbatteries.co.uk
Albion Yard, Manor Road, ERITH, Kent DA8 2AD
Nationwide battery collection and recycling scheme for all types of lead acid batteries, mainly traction (fork lift trucks, milk floats etc), secondary cells, UPS (computer back-up), motor and commercial vehicles. Collection by registered drivers in vehicles equipped to carry hazardous waste. Batteries are crushed, allowing casings to be separated, leaving the lead ready to be refined to a very high purity (99.97%). The acid is then neutralised. Any plastics are recycled and used for non-food products. Division of Vinton Metals Limited. (Updated Feb 2004)