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Battery Recycling UK

When it comes to battery recycling, UK efforts are not always what they should be. It may be hard to believe, but around 22,000 tonnes of batteries are poured into landfill each year. The European Union has put in place a Battery Directive, which emphasizes that participating countries must maximise the separation of batteries from regular household waste and conduct separate collections.

Problems with battery recycling UK

This is easier said than done though, with:

  • Many householders in the UK not remembering to store spent batteries safely for recycling
  • Not having kerbside services available to recycle batteries in the UK
  • Many householders not going to the trouble of taking them to a recycling collection point.

The average household uses 21 batteries per year, practically all of which can be recycled. It does not matter whether the batteries are fully discharged or not, they may still be recycled. One major barrier to having more household batteries recycled is the lack of kerbside collection services.

How battery recycling UK could be improved

The UK could be making better progress towards achieving increased battery recycling UK, with only 2-3% of waste batteries being collected for recycling. Countries including Spain and Belgium are doing far better with 14% and 59% respectively (2002 figures).

What batteries can be recycled in the UK?

All non-lead acid type batteries can be recycled, both rechargeable and non-rechargeable types. These include alkaline manganese, zinc-carbon, nickel cadmium (NiCd), lithium ion (Li-ion), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), single-use lithium, silver oxide, and zinc air batteries. So there are few reasons why batteries need go into your regular garbage.

Essentially, batteries which an average person can easily carry in one hand are all appropriate for recycling. These include single cell batteries, such as AA, AAA, and larger round batteries, and square batteries. In addition, batteries used to power mobile telephones, laptops and cordless appliances and toys are all able to be recycled.

What is involved in battery recycling in the UK?

battery recycling ukThe process for battery recycling UK is not as straightforward as you may think. Once waste batteries are collected from household collection points, they are transferred to a large plastic container capable of holding about 500kg worth of batteries. This container is then transported to a sorting facility.

After being transferred onto a conveyor belt, qualified workers assist in sorting the batteries according to their chemical makeup. These chemical groupings include alkaline/zinc carbon, nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), lithium ion rechargeable (Li-ion), single use lithium and button cells (Mercury and Silver Oxide).

The recycling process itself is quite technical. Basically, the more the chemicals are broken down for reuse, the more costly the processes involved, so it is always a balance between cost and efficiency. Firstly, the outer case of the battery must be removed, and then the contents treated using one of two processes. Pyro-metallurgical processing involves placing the battery contents into a furnace to recover some of the metals, while hydro-metallurgical systems involve dissolving the battery in acids.

Alkaline and zinc carbon batteries are the most common types of batteries in the UK, and the hydro-metallurgical process is the process most commonly used for recycling, for its greater flexibility and reduced CO2 emissions.

Find out more about battery recycling UK at The All Clear Company.

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