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Battery-recycling law in force

Shoppers will be able to recycle old batteries in thousands of shops across the country from today as part of a crackdown on the throwaway society.

Under a European directive, every shop selling more than a pack of batteries a day will be forced to accept old batteries for recycling and most are expected to set up in-store collection points, typically in the form of a cardboard box by the door. Some town halls, libraries and schools will voluntarily offer the service.

The change will bring Britain into line with many mainland European countries, where recycling boxes for batteries have been a common sight in shops for years.

Britons use over 600 million batteries every year – an average of 21 per household – but the UK has a dismal record in recycling them. The overwhelming majority, 97 per cent, are thrown into domestic bins and end up in landfill, where their toxic metals lead, cadmium and mercury leach out into the ground and pollute water courses.

The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 is the latest attempt, following the Landfill and WEE EU directives, to transform Britain into a greener society which dumps fewer materials.

It incorporates into British law the 2006 EU Batteries directive, which set a series of targets for the recycling of portable batteries used to power toys, torches and other gadgets. From the current 3 per cent, the UK will have to recycle 25 per cent of used batteries by 2012 and 45 per cent by 2016.

Any high street or online retailer selling more than 32kg of batteries a year, the equivalent of one pack of 4 AA batteries a day, will have to provide recycling bins or facilities.

Increasing recycling will cut greenhouse gases linked to battery production, says the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which estimates that hitting the 2016 target could save 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

“This new legislation will make it easier for consumers to do the right thing whilst ensuring retailers fulfil their part of the bargain,” said Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment.

“Old batteries can cause harm to the environment when they are not recycled. The new approach to disposal of batteries will help to reduce the number of batteries that now end up in landfill.”

Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Robert Dyas, Dixon’s, Curry’s and PC World are among shops offering free battery recycling.