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Used Batteries: Retailer Responsibilities

Under the battery 'take back' scheme, retailers and distributors must fulfill their responsibilities for the collection of portable batteries.

This guide explains whether you need to offer a free collection service for used batteries, which ones you need to collect, and where to send old batteries for recycling.

Which Batteries Must Retailers Take Back?

There are three different types of batteries. They will either be classed as automotive, industrial, or portable.

For retail and distribution purposes, a portable battery:

  • Weighs less than four (4) kilograms.
  • Is a sealed unit.
  • Is neither automotive nor industrial.

Note: The standard battery waste regulations and restrictions do not apply to any used by the military or those taken into space.

Retailer and Distributor Responsibilities

As a battery retailer or distributor, you may need to offer a free collection service (called ‘take back’) of all used or waste batteries.

The rule applies for retailers and distributors who sell or supply quantities of portable batteries weighing at least 32 kilograms per year.

Important: Selling or supplying a single pack of 4 AA batteries every day would be near the weight limit of 32 kilos per year.

There must be a “collection point” at any and all premises supplying portable batteries, no matter whether you are:

  • Running a shop (or a chain of retail shops).
  • Selling batteries online, by mail order, or by telephone.

Furthermore, retailers and distributors must take back all types of sealed batteries (if the average person could carry it without difficulty).

The waste battery collection rules apply to small and lightweight AA, and AAA batteries. But, it also applies to 9 volt and certain types of rechargeable batteries, including those used in:

  • Electric toothbrushes
  • Hand-held vacuum cleaners
  • Hearing aids
  • Laptops
  • Mobile phones
  • Portable cameras
  • Razors
  • Torches
  • Watches

Important: UK retailers and distributors must provide a way for customers to dispose of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). But, they are exempt from having to take back car and motorbike batteries (as well as those used in industrial equipment).

Battery Collection Points

The location for a collection point must be at the actual place where the business trades. Moreover, it should be safe and suitable for storing all types of portable batteries. Hence, it cannot be safe ‘only’ for the type that you are selling.

You must also inform people (e.g. customers) that you will take back used batteries if they return them to your store. One way is to display posters at the business premises or publish it on your website.

If you register on the WRAP Resource Library website, you will be able to download posters of batteries signage free of charge.

Sending Batteries to be Recycled

Most batteries contain some kind of heavy metal (e.g. cadmium, lead, or mercury). There is some concern about the effect that these metals have on the environment.

If a battery corrodes, heavy metals can leak into the soil and water table. As a result, hazardous materials must be disposed of according to business and commercial waste management in the United Kingdom.

UK battery compliance schemes collect batteries free of charge. But, if you are going to transport them yourself (e.g. to a recycling plant), you will need to:

Selling Less than 32 Kilograms

As a rule, smaller retailers and distributors (e.g. those who sell less than 32 kilograms per year) do not need to take back used batteries.

Even so, some will take back waste batteries on a voluntary basis. A compliance scheme operator can help if you are arranging the collection and transportation yourself.

Note: Another section explains more about the ‘duty of care’ and procedures for managing hazardous waste in the United Kingdom.

Take Back Scheme Enforcement

One of the key roles of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is managing the batteries takeback scheme.

Office for Product Safety and Standards
PO Box 17200
B2 2YT

They also enforce regulations for the:

  • Manufacture and product labelling for the three types of batteries.
  • Compliance by the producers of automotive and industrial batteries.

As such, they have the power to visit business premises at any time and check how the company handles waste and used batteries.

Penalties for Non Compliance

Failing to comply with the regulations for battery waste can result in a fine up to £5,000 for the worst offenders.

Important: The Environment Agency (and equivalents in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) enforce other aspects of the rules and regulations on environmental management.

Waste Battery Collection Rules for Retailers in United Kingdom