Industry feedback sought on Defra portable batteries consultation

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has re-launched a consultation to clarify the regulatory definition of a portable battery.

Starting on the 26 January and running for four weeks, the consultation follows a previous attempt in 2013 that was scrapped due to an error in the consultation documents.

The current framework to define a portable battery in the Government Guidance Notes on the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 includes a 4kg-10kg grey area to interpret whether a battery “can be hand-carried by an average person without difficulty”.

A redefining of the guidance seeks to redress an imbalance between the tonnage of portable lead acid batteries collected for recycling and the tonnage declared as placed on the market in the same period – for example in 2013, 470% of the tonnage of portable lead acid batteries declared as placed on the market were actually collected for recycling. This over-collection is thought to be due to a difference in the way the definition of a portable battery is being applied at the two ends of the supply chain, resulting in confusion between a portable and industrial battery.


Proposed options in the consultation to redefine a portable battery include:

  •   retain the current guidance
  •   introduce a single weight threshold of 4kg for portable batteries
  •   introduce a single weight threshold of 3kg for portable batteries


The Government prefers a single limit of 4kg and are seeking feedback on what is the most desirable option, including any further evidence regarding the data that underpins the proposal and impacts on the cost and benefits.

If the proposed changes are approved it is likely that more non-lead batteries will need to be recycled to meet the EU recycling target, which requires 45% of portable batteries to be collected by the end of 2016. According to Defra, 83% of the UK’s battery recycling obligation in 2012 was met through the collection of lead acid batteries despite them making up just 8% of the new batteries placed onto the market.

ecosurety recognises the issue of over collection with the need for compelling data to demonstrate successful collection systems for other chemistry types. Having previously surveyed members for the initial consultation in 2013, ecosurety are currently seeking feedback from all areas of industry, including non-members, to accurately assess how this regulatory change will impact the costs and obligations of recycling batteries. A response to the consultation will be submitted in February.

David Burton, policy director at ecosurety commented “ecosurety clearly welcomes the consultation on portable batteries, although we would have preferred new standards to have been agreed at the start of a compliance year rather than part way through when contacts may have already been agreed between reprocessors and schemes.”

“We feel that the consultation highlights concern that the sector has had for some considerable time and it now presents the opportunity, albeit somewhat delayed since the initial consultation, to create a more accurate representation of portable battery collection in the UK”.

In response, when asked to clarify details about the implementation timing of the change, Ian Atkinson, Policy Officer at Defra stated “We anticipate amended guidance will be ready for publication in early 2015 and will take effect as soon as practical”.

To share your views or concerns with ecosurety, or if you would simply like to know more about how the proposed changes could affect your obligations, please contact our experts by calling 0845 094 2228 or email batteries@ecosurety.com.

You can find out more about the consultation by clicking here.


Robbie Staniforth

Innovation and Policy Director

Robbie is innovation and policy director at Ecosurety. Having spent years building an intimate understanding of the industry’s policies and politics, he uses this knowledge to help shape new legislation and oversees Ecosurety’s growing portfolio of cross-industry innovation projects including Podback and the Flexible Plastic Fund. He has worked closely with Defra during the most recent packaging consultations, outlining the impacts and required transitional arrangements of the UK’s new EPR system and is a member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP). He is also a spokesperson for the company and regularly uses his influence to communicate the importance of environmental responsibility to external stakeholders.

Written by Robbie Staniforth Published 13/01/2015 Topics Compliance

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