Regulations: batteries and waste batteries
Guidance for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.
Batteries are regulated to:
- tightly control their levels of mercury, cadmium and lead
- assist their recycling through clear labelling
- ensure that on disposal they are properly treated and recycled, rather than being sent for incineration or to landfill, both of which are illegal
The Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008 (as amended) and the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 (as amended) are the underpinning legislation. (An accumulator is a battery that can store electrical energy.)
What is covered?
The regulations cover all batteries, regardless whether they are in products.
Batteries are divided into three types.
An automotive battery:
- starts a vehicle engine or
- powers lights in a vehicle
An industrial battery:
- is designed exclusively for industrial or professional use or
- powers an electric or ‘hybrid’ vehicle or
- is unsealed but not automotive
A portable battery:
- is sealed and
- under 4 kilograms and
- is not automotive nor industrial
The regulations do not apply to batteries for use by the military or in space.
Who is responsible for compliance?
The manufacturer or importer that first places batteries on the UK market – including those in products – is responsible for compliance, if the business has a UK presence (which extends to overseas companies that are or should be registered with Companies House).
The only exception is the collection of portable batteries under the take back scheme, which is the responsibility of UK distributors and retailers that sell (or supply) more than 32 kg of batteries a year.
How do I comply?
Products must be designed so that any batteries in them can be readily removed, by the user or an independent qualified professional, unless a permanent connection is needed for reasons such as safety and data integrity.
Batteries placed on the UK market must contain less than the maximum prescribed levels of mercury, cadmium and lead, and display a ‘crossed out wheeled bin’ diagram of appropriate size with any relevant chemical symbols. The capacity of automotive batteries and portable rechargeable batteries must also be indicated.
Producers – manufacturers and importers – must also record the tonnage and chemistry of the batteries they place on the market.
The specific obligations in relation to waste batteries depend on their type, but all require registration with the appropriate environmental regulator via the National Waste Packaging Database and the annual provision of information.
Producers of automotive batteries must collect waste automotive batteries for free from their final holders, such as garages and scrapyards.
Producers of industrial batteries must take back waste industrial batteries for free from end users, if they supply them with new batteries and in certain other circumstances.
Producers of portable batteries that place more than 1 tonne a year on the market must join a Battery Compliance Scheme (BCS), which handles the registration process for them.
The guiding principles of the various arrangements are that all waste batteries are processed by an Approved Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO) or an Approved Battery Exporter (ABE) and that producers pay for their collection, treatment and recycling.
Finally, distributors and retailers that sell or supply more than 32 kg of batteries a year must participate in the take back scheme. This involves providing a free collection point for waste portable batteries at their premises and arranging their transport to an ABTO or ABE, usually through a BCS.
What is the role of Regulatory Delivery?
Regulatory Delivery enforces the regulations in the UK in relation to the:
- manufacture and labelling of all batteries
- compliance of producers of automotive and industrial batteries
- take back scheme for distributors and retailers
Other aspects of the regulations are enforced by the Environment Agency and its equivalents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Where can I find out more?
If you have a specific enquiry about compliance with the regulations in relation to the role of Regulatory Delivery, please use the contact details on our enforcement services page.