Battery recycling: How to comply

WEEE Ireland's electrical waste project has grown bigger than ever
WEEE Ireland's electrical waste project has grown bigger than ever

MOPS advises on new battery recycling regulations. Knowing your facts is the best safeguard against legal action

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10 October 2008 | 0

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Under the new regulations, every retailer must ensure that any producer from whom he/she is supplied with batteries has a certificate of registration and registration number. This includes batteries and/or accumulators incorporated into electrical and electronic equipment and/or battery packs, such as certain toys, watches and clocks

A new battery recycling scheme is due to come into force in Ireland on 26 September 2008. All retailers who sell batteries will face new challenges and increased responsibilities in terms of management of waste batteries. New obligations have also been imposed on retailers in terms of selling batteries, which contain certain hazardous materials.

Batteries have somehow slipped through the recycling net in Ireland in the past, but this is all now set to change as new regulations have been put in place aiming to minimise landfill disposal and maximise separate collection of waste batteries. In order to avoid prosecution and also to help achieve the environmental objectives of the regulations, retailers must be fully aware of their obligations.

What are your obligations?

From 26 September 2008, retailers will be prohibited from selling batteries, including re-chargeable batteries (known in the trade as accumulators) that contain more than 0.0005% of mercury by weight and portable batteries (e.g. AAA, AA, PP9, D etc) and portable accumulators that contain more than 0.002% cadmium by weight.  

The mercury prohibition will not apply to button cells (e.g. those found in watches, hearing aids etc.) with a mercury content of no more than 2% by weight, whilst the cadmium prohibition will not apply to batteries and/or accumulators intended for use in emergency and alarm systems, including emergency lighting, medical equipment, and cordless power tools.

Retailers will be prohibited from selling a battery, accumulator or battery pack that is not marked with the crossed out wheeled bin symbol. If they contain more than 0.0005% mercury (Hg), 0.002% cadmium (Cd), 0.004% lead (Pb), then the appropriate chemical symbol must be printed on the label beneath the wheeled bin symbol.

Where the size of the battery/battery pack is such that the wheeled bin symbol would be smaller than 0.5 x 0.5 cm, then the wheeled bin symbol, as well as any appropriate chemical symbols, should be printed on the packaging and measure at least 1 x 1 cm.

Ensuring producers are registered

Under the new regulations, every retailer must ensure that any producer from whom he/she is supplied with batteries has a certificate of registration and registration number. This registration number must be displayed on any invoice, credit note and dispatch or delivery docket in respect of batteries supplied to the distributor. It is crucial to point out that this requirement includes batteries and/or accumulators incorporated into electrical and electronic equipment and/or battery packs. This will encompass a wide array of electric and electronic equipment in which batteries are already incorporated, for example, certain toys, watches and clocks.
In the event that retailers do not check that producers are registered and are supplied with batteries from a producer which is not registered, that retailer will be taking on the producer’s responsibilities and obligations for those batteries which are a lot more onerous.
Any retailer who distributes any battery and/or accumulator, including any incorporated into electrical and electronic equipment or battery packs, placed on the market by a producer who is not properly registered with the approved registration body, WEEE Register, will be required to register with this body. They will also have to arrange for the environmentally sound disposal of the batteries, achieve certain collection and recovery targets and also prepare and submit waste management plans and reports in accordance with the regulations.

Retailers deemed to be producers
If a retailer imports batteries into Ireland and thus places batteries on the Irish market for the first time, then he/she will be deemed a “producer” for the purpose of these regulations. Further obligations are imposed on producers under the regulations, in terms of restrictions on placing batteries containing specified hazardous substances on the market, as well as the finance costs associated with the collection, storage, treatment and recovery and/or disposal of waste batteries.

Free take back
All retailers will be obliged, from 26 September 2008, to take back waste batteries and/or rechargeable batteries including those incorporated into electrical and electronic equipment and/or battery packs, regardless of their chemical composition or origin, at every outlet from which such batteries are sold.
Retail outlets that sell batteries will be required to take back waste batteries free of charge, even where the person depositing the waste batteries does not purchase a new battery at the same time. However, in order to avail of this free take-back scheme, consumers may only return batteries to a retailer, who sells an equivalent type of battery. For instance, retailers will not have to take back a car battery if they only sell batteries suitable for a radio or a remote control.  
Retailers must ensure that members of the public can return waste batteries and/or accumulators at all reasonable times at conveniently located points in the store. Unlike the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations, there are no environmental management costs on batteries.

Can retailers refuse to take back batteries? Retailers will only be obliged to take back batteries of an equivalent type as supplied by them. Also, there is no obligation to take back waste portable batteries exceeding a total of five kilograms (kg) in weight from any one person at any one time. Batteries leaking any constituent materials may also be refused. Retailers should note, however, that any attempt to offer a discount on the retail price of any portable battery, in an effort to avoid such obligations, is strictly prohibited.

Registration of retailers
with local authority
No later than 15 September 2008 every retailer must, in respect of each premises from which he/she distributes batteries or stores batteries prior to their distribution, apply for registration to the local authority in the area in which this premises is located. Such registration must be renewed no later than 31 January each year, however, application for renewal is not required within six months of initial registration.
Where a retailer imports batteries directly into the country and then sells them, he/she will be classified as both a retailer and a distributor and therefore must register with both WEEE Register as a producer and his/her local authority as a distributor of batteries.

Do distance sellers
have any obligations?
If a retailer is supplying batteries to end-users by means of distance communication (i.e. via internet, mail-order, telesales etc) similar duties must also be fulfilled. In the case of websites, catalogues, brochures and mail-shots, there must be a visible and legible notice indicating that waste batteries and/or accumulators, including those incorporated into electrical and electronic equipment and/or battery packs, will be taken back free of charge provided the battery is an equivalent type as the batteries supplied. It is also necessary to provide details of the address to which waste batteries should be returned.

Enforcement and penalties
Failure to comply with the obligations under the Battery Regulations is an offence and the Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of enforcement. The penalties for such offences range from fines of E5,000 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment on summary conviction to E500,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years on indictment.    

Under the new rules all retailers will be obliged to take back waste batteries and/or rechargeable batteries. Failure to comply with any of the obligations under the Battery Regulations could result in fines of as much as E500,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years on indictment

Under the new rules all retailers will be obliged to take back waste batteries and/or rechargeable batteries. Failure to comply with any of the obligations under the Battery Regulations could result in fines of as much as E500,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years on indictment

Disposal of waste batteries

The waste portable batteries and/or portable accumulators, which have been deposited at the retail outlet, can be transferred by the retailer to one of the following:
•    the producer responsible for the waste arisings in question
•    a collector acting on behalf of the producer responsible for the waste arisings in question
    and/or
•    an approved collective compliance scheme (provided that party is in possession of the relevant waste permit)

A further option is that a retailer, who has registered with his/her local authority and fulfilled all the necessary requirements, may deposit the waste portable batteries and/or accumulators at a civic amenity facility operated by or on behalf of a local authority. In certain circumstances, they can also be deposited at a distribution centre (e.g. cash and carry) where he/she purchases portable batteries and/or portable accumulators.
There are two authorised national compliance schemes for electrical and battery recycling, namely WEEE Ireland and European Recycling Platform (ERP). They will coordinate the collection of these waste batteries from drop-off points around the country, and facilitate their sorting, treatment and recycling.

 

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