For a long time, batteries have been seen as a convenient, cheap and disposable source of power, but in recent years the problems with throwing batteries into the trash have come to light. Batteries contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and nickel. When these metals are incinerated or leak out of batteries that haven’t been properly recycled, they can cause serious health problems for humans and wildlife.
In 2006, the European Parliament passed Directive 2006/66/EC (pdf), also known as the Battery Directive. The purpose of this directive was to set stricter regulations on battery manufacture, disposal and recycling in all member states. The directive had initiatives to reduce the use of rare, precious and heavy metals in new batteries. It also stressed the importance of battery recycling and the separation of batteries from regular municipal waste. Member states were allowed to set their own specific recycling rules, but are required to provide convenient and free collection sites for used batteries.
The UK has tried a number of battery-recycling methods in recent years, including kerbside pickup, retail and community drop-off sites, return through the mail and collection at fire stations. These methods have worked with varying degrees of success, but the UK still lags behind most major countries in the EU when it comes to recycling batteries. To make battery recycling as easy as possible, batteries can now be recycled anywhere that the Be Positive sign is displayed. Shops and retailers that sell batteries must also now provide in-store drop-off spots for battery recycling.
Most kinds of batteries can be recycled. The lead-acid batteries found in cars and other vehicles are often recycled by mechanics, but single-use alkaline batteries such as those found in toys and cameras end up in landfills far too often. Both types of batteries are dangerous to the environment and both can be dropped off at any recycling drop-off point. The small, round silver oxide batteries found in calculators contain valuable metals and are highly toxic. These batteries should always be recycled and are accepted at all recycling centres and drop-off spots. Rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries are a great option for those who want to reduce their waste, and when these batteries begin to lose their charge, they can easily be recycled.
Batteries that are simply tossed into the bin can endanger wildlife and contribute to water and soil pollution. Cadmium, commonly found in batteries, is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and can bio-accumulate in fish. This bio-accumulation makes the fish unsafe for humans to eat and can damage the kidneys, lungs and prostates of those who consume them. The heavy-metal zinc is known to negatively affect plants and aquatic organisms, and other toxic metals such as silver and manganese are being studied for toxicity. When recycling batteries in the UK is easier than it ever has been, it’s a shame to put our health and wildlife in danger. Find out where your local battery-recycling location is, and do your part for the environment plus the health of your neighbours and yourself.
Furthermore, under The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 retailers such as MDS Battery have to take back waste portable batteries at no charge and inform you that you are able to return them to us without the need to buy any new batteries. If you’d like to learn more about this regulation, you can here, or if you have any questions, you can ask us here.
Image © JohnSeb
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