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Battery market review: Q4

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The Q4 2021 UK Battery Collection data published on NPWD on Tuesday 1st March 2022 shows that evidence notes for 18,466.200t of portable battery recycling have been accepted for 2021 to date, achieving a collection rate of 45.88%, exceeding the 45% UK target.  Since Battery Compliance Schemes have until 31st May 2022 to obtain evidence notes to meet their member’s obligations, the final UK position for the 2021 compliance year is still subject to change.

As shown in the table below, the growth in total portable batteries POM between 2020-2021 exceeded growth in the quantity of waste batteries delivered to ABTOs / ABEs, although within the overall total, variations by battery chemistry are evident:

POM (t) Delivered to ABTO / ABE by BCS (t)
2020 2021 Growth 2020 2021 Growth
Total 40,999 43,893 6.6% 17,399 18,466 5.8%
Lead acid 1,377 1,367 -0.7% 11,468 14,099 18.7%
Ni-Cd 316 204 -55.1% 519 333 -55.8%
Other 39,306 42,322 7.1% 5,412 4,034 -34.2%

The data shows that as would be expected, Ni-Cd batteries placed on the market continue to decline and also that collections of this battery chemistry have reduced. The disparity between lead acid batteries placed on the market and lead-acid batteries delivered for recycling continues to widen, despite expectations that the new guidance published by the Environment Agency on 31st August 2021 would drive the reclassification of some valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries from industrial batteries to portable batteries.

There is no clear evidence of any impact of the guidance change in general, which also required as a default position, that batteries that could potentially be classed as either portable or industrial, should be classed as portable unless there was clear evidence to the contrary. Whilst there was a 6.6% increase in portable batteries POM in 2021 compared to 2020, the increase actually occurred in Quarters One and Two 2021; prior to the new guidance being published. The quantity of portable batteries POM in Quarters Three and Four 2021, was 25,687t, slightly less than the 25,793t POM in the same period in 2020.

Whilst the data suggests that classification of portable batteries continues to be an issue in the short term, Defra have proposed the format of new voluntary reporting of more granular portable battery chemistry data. We expect further steps to resolve the imbalance between the reporting of lead-acid POM and the lead-acid portable batteries recycled and consideration of setting individual battery chemistry recycling targets to feature heavily in the forthcoming battery consultation.

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