Major high street retailers have joined forces to encourage people to recycle their used household batteries as a new poll revealed that more than half of respondents admitted they throw them in the bin.
Asda, B&Q, Currys PC World, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons are all backing the drive to make it easier for consumers to recycle dead batteries and avoid millions ending up in landfill every year and wreaking environmental havoc.
Retailers who sell more than 32 kg of batteries a year are already required to provide collection points, yet they are not always visible. Those backing the new campaign have committed to making sure these facilities are easy to spot in store.
A poll of 3,055 UK adults by environmental charity Hubbub and compliance scheme Ecosurety revealed that less than half of those surveyed (47%) realised that batteries are made of valuable heavy metals which can be reused, including lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc, manganese and lithium.
The toxic contents mean that they can be hazardous to the environment if not disposed of properly, yet half of respondents (52%) admitted throwing batteries away in the regular waste bin. This results in millions every year ending up in landfill, with the potential to leach into the ground and water supplies if not carefully managed. In addition the research found that six in 10 people in the UK hoard batteries in their homes, adding up to a whopping 178 m batteries stashed, despite the dangers to children.
Dead batteries are currently shipped to be recycled in Finland, Germany and France, although the first UK plant will open in Scotland in November. That will be able to process 20,000 tonnes of batteries a year – enough capacity to deal with all the UK’s current batteries. However there are concerns that the drive to replace petrol and diesel cars with a new breed of electric vehicles will raise a fresh environmental headache – the fate of half-tonne lithium-ion batteries when they wear out.