Sky News reports that there are less than 100 days to go before Europeans have to start disposing of their old batteries in a more environmentally friendly manner. It appears that there is a new European Union directive coming in to force which will set national targets for the recycling of batteries.
Apparently as many as 660 million batteries each year end up being buried in European landfill sites, a figure that is being driven upwards by our increasing reliance upon portable power. Things will have to change over the next few years, as the EU have set a target of 25 percent of all batteries being recycled by September 26th 2010 and 45 percent six years on from then.
According to the EU:
Approximately 800,000 tonnes of automotive batteries, 190,000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 160,000 tonnes of portable (consumer) batteries are placed on the EU market annually. The metals used in those batteries vary considerably and include mercury, lead and cadmium (batteries containing them are considered hazardous waste by Commission Decision 2000/532/EC), nickel, copper, zinc, manganese and lithium. In case of incineration, the metals used in batteries contribute to air emissions and pollute incineration residues. When batteries end up in landfills, the metals contribute to the leachate from landfills. Moreover, on a resource management level, batteries are considered a source of secondary raw materials. Thousands of tonnes of metals, including valuable metals such as nickel, cobalt and silver, will be recovered when batteries are recycled.
It seems to me that the EU targets are actually pretty low, especially if it is serious about cutting down on battery wastage. Surely they should be introducing measures to encourage the use of rechargeable power packs rather than these arbitrary targets. In fact, why not ban disposable batteries altogether? I have none in my household any more, and where possible use alternatives to battery power such as, for example, a wind up radio and torch (tips hat to British inventor Trevor Baylis)