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BATTERIES - The Information You Want to Know

It is estimated that there are 1000 million batteries sold in the UK each year. 99% of which are not collected separately. The average household uses 21 batteries a year. There are many different types of batteries used in lots of everyday items such as clocks, mobile phones, watches, hearing aids, toys, cars, and equipment e.t.c.

Battery Picture

Types of Battery

There are three main types of battery. These are:

* Dry Cell non-rechargeable
* Dry Cell rechargeable
* Wet Cell

Dry Cell Non-rechargeable Batteries

These are the most common types of battery. A dry cell battery can require 50 times more energy to make than what it gives out.
* Alkaline manganese - found in items such as personal stereos.
* Zinc carbon - can be found in low drainage items such as radios and shavers.
* Zinc chloride - again used in similar items such as clocks and torches.

There is a problem within the UK with current recycling technology for these batteries. Currently it isn't efficient to have a collection service for batteries. Mercury has been a major reason for the lack of battery recycling. 5 parts per million of mercury can prevent effective recycling. Many major manufacturers have stopped using mercury in batteries so this will help increase the effectiveness of recycling in the future.

Dry Cell Rechargeable Batteries

These batteries again have similar uses as the ones above, and are also used in power tools and mobile phones.
* Lithium ion (Li-Lon) batteries - have greater energy storage than the batteries below.
* Nickel cadmium (NiCd) - commonly used in toys, shavers, lap top computers, and power tools.
* Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) - these batteries are less harmful to the environment than nickel cadmium batteries and usually have a longer life.

Wet Cell

These are lead acid batteries often found in industrial equipment and cars. These are routinely recycled.

Recycling of Batteries

The lack of recycling options for batteries is a big issue for the UK, but steps are being made to improve this situation, although many batteries are still being taken to be recycled in France and Switzerland. Some kerbside schemes now include batteries as part of their collections. Many local authority household waste sites now take household batteries as well as car batteries. Contact your local authority for more information. Businesses can contact RABBITT Recycling for further information on business collections. Some retailers such as DIY shops or supermarkets will have a battery collection point within their stores.

Battety 2 Picture

What is More Environmentally Sound?

In this case, using the mains electricity or solar powered devices is the best option. Rechargeable batteries are then the next best option - NiMh rechargeable batteries are probably the 'greenest' as they have a long life. If you continue to use normal batteries, contact your local authority to see if they have any battery collection schemes. If they don't, ask them if they are planning to do in the future. Send batteries back to manufacturers for recycling or reprocessing where such a scheme is available.


The EU Directive on Batteries and Accumulators (91/157/EEC) was introduced in 1991. It meant that any batteries containing 25mg of mercury (an exception being alkaline manganese batteries) had to be collected and either disposed of or recycled separately from other household waste. This directive was then amended in 1998 (98/101/EEC) to further reduce the permissible heavy metal limits.
It also prevents the marketing of batteries and accumulators containing more than 0.0005% of mercury and button cells containing more than 2% of mercury by weight. A further directive also requires the marking of button cells or batteries made of button cells.

The 1991 Directive is currently under review. The draft proposal has included:

* Recycling battery targets to be introduced
* A ban on landfilling and incineration of all industrial and automotive batteries
* Member states will be expected to make sure a high percentage of portable batteries enter a recycling process.
* Weight based targets to be introduced.

The current legislation is quite confusing and not very clear to the general public. This needs to be improved upon.

For further information check out the article below:

The Recycling and Correct Disposal of General Purpose Batteries

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