A new scheme has been launched that will make it far easier for the consumer to dispose of used batteries more responsibly. Under the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations, from the 1st of May 2010 distributors supplying more than 32Kg of portable batteries a year need to take back customers used batteries free of charge.
I read somewhere on the web recently that an estimated 214 million batteries were used over the 2009 Christmas period in the UK alone. That’s a staggering figure. The value of these batteries is in the region of £133 million, however, what’s more concerning is that apparently around 97% of these batteries will end up in landfill.
Unfortunately batteries contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. If not properly disposed of these can leak into the earth and ground water and the accumulation of these toxins over time is a danger to the environment, potentially causing disease and poisoning of both wildlife and humans.
Batteries taken back under the scheme will be recycled to recover some of the materials used to make the batteries. These materials can be used again to make other products and potentially to make new batteries. Recycling can also save some of the Earth’s natural resources and save on CO2 emissions by reducing the need to mine new materials.
Of course, if you have to buy batteries ( and we nearly all do), then it is far better to buy rechargeable batteries . Rechargeable batteries may cost a little more initially but they do not contain as many harmful toxins as standard batteries and can be re-used 100s (if not 1000s) of times and can still be recycled when they reach the end of their lifespan. You will also need a battery charger , either mains powered or, even better you could opt for an eco friendly solar battery charger .
Another alternative to using batteries is to buy products that don’t require them in the first place. There are many great eco-toys for kids that don’t have to be battery powered. Wind-up and solar powered products are another alternative, although many of these will contain rechargeable batteries even though they may not be replaceable. For this reason, when disposing of wind-up and solar powered products (as with all waste electrical products) look for a WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) recycling centre. All electrical retailers should offer a like for like take back service and most Councils provide recycling centres for waste electrical equipment as well.
At the very least I think we can all do a bit more without too much effort to reduce the amount of waste batteries going into landfill. Try to switch to rechargeable batteries – I actually think you will find it very convenient (I keep a spare set of 4 AA and 4 AAA batteries “solar charged” and ready to swap into our kids toys as and when required) and it definitely works out cheaper. Also consider good quality wind up torches and solar powered and wind-up radios as an alternative to normal battery operated products.