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BATTERY MARKET INSIGHTS


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UK waste portable battery collections

The UK waste portable battery data published by the Environment Agency on 1st September 2020 indicates that Covid-19 has significantly impacted waste portable battery collections. The quantity of waste portable batteries collected by Battery Compliance Schemes (BCS’s) in Quarter Two 2020 was 65% of the quantity collected in Quarter Two 2019 and just 50% of the quantity collected in Quarter One 2020.

Analysis of the battery chemistry data gives an unexpected result given the changes in access to different types of battery return systems which occurred as a consequence of Covid-19, with wide-spread closure of Local Authority Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and non-food retailers. Surprisingly, this appears to have had minimal impact on the type of waste portable batteries collected.  Logically, the proportion of lead-acid batteries would have been expected to reduce since these are typically the larger portable batteries, unsuitable for the containers types provided at the supermarkets which remained open throughout the pandemic. Conversely, an increase in the proportion of “other” portable batteries, collected through supermarket return system was perhaps expected. With exception of nickel-cadmium batteries, the reported data shows little change in the proportion of each battery chemistry collected in Quarter Two 2020 when compared with Quarter Two 2019.

Q2 2019 Q2 2020
Lead-acid 80.3% 79.1%
Nickel-Cadmium 3.8% 1.5%
Other 15.9% 19.4%

The reason for the reduction in the proportion of nickel-cadmium batteries is perhaps a combination of several factors including:

  • the ongoing decline in use of these batteries (permitted only for use in emergency and alarm systems and in medical equipment);
  • unsuitability of supermarket collection points for larger nickel-cadmium batteries removed from power tools; and
  • closure of HWRCS, reducing return of power tool batteries through this system and also their extraction from discarded power tools at WEEE treatment plants.

Whilst the battery chemistry composition is surprising, it is important not to distract too much from the fact that Covid-19 appears to have dramatically reduced collections, compromising achievement of the already challenging 2020 UK waste portable battery target.

Current UK Compliance Position

In 2020 to date, the UK has achieved 40.3% of its estimated 2020 obligation. As we advised in our last market update, the UK obligation estimated by the Environment Agency quarterly within each compliance period, is typically notably lower than the final UK obligation. This is a consequence of the high proportion of the annual quantity of portable batteries that are placed on the market in Quarter Four each year.

At 40.3% year to date achievement of an obligation that is only likely to increase, the UK final 2020 compliance position is perhaps at best unclear and  certainly necessitates an increase in collections in the second half of the year. With the lifting of most Covid-19 restrictions, REPIC is working hard with our partners to contribute to this and achieve compliance.

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