Commercial Manager at Valpak Ltd James Nash discusses how waste batteries often end up in the general waste bin but, disposed of properly, have the #PowerToDoMore. As part of its free national network for businesses, Valpak has launched the first carbon-free battery collections in the UK.

In the UK, around 40,000 tonnes of portable batteries are sold each year, yet only 8,000 tonnes are recycled. Batteries are toxic and extremely flammable, so keeping them out of the general waste stream is important. For those that want to do the right thing, free collection is available and, with an award-winning innovative scheme, battery collection can also have an impact on carbon reporting.

Figures show that around 80% of the batteries we use are not separated for recycling. This is largely down to size and convenience. Common batteries such as AAAs are small, and not every council includes them in household collections. They tend to find their way into the general waste, ending up at materials recovery facilities, which sort waste for recycling.

Despite their diminutive size, the impact of waste batteries can be severe. Aside from the leakage of hazardous chemicals, they are also the cause of an increasing number of fires at local authority facilities. Small fires result in downtime and damage, a large fire can cause injury or fatalities.

One simple way to ensure that batteries are separated for recycling is for businesses to take advantage of a free collection scheme. Staff deposit used batteries generated at work or brought from home into a free collection box. When full, it is collected and replaced. The batteries are then recycled securely at a licensed facility.

In January, Valpak’s zero-carbon battery collection service beat 12 other shortlisted companies to win the Partnership Excellence award at the National Recycling Awards, the recycling industry’s most prestigious ceremony. The service, which is free of charge, is a first for the UK. It uses cycle couriers to collect waste batteries from Cambridge and London.

The bikes use reverse logistics, picking up batteries after dropping off parcels at offices and retail outlets. The scheme has already collected eight tonnes – equivalent to 348,700 waste batteries – and is due to expand to Brighton in 2021, with other areas of Valpak’s national network to follow.

At Valpak, we are keen to encourage businesses to get involved. Our staff are very active in supporting local charities and, as well as trying to drive battery collection, we wanted to support those who may be struggling in these difficult times. We decided to donate £5 for every battery collection box ordered to a local charity, Springfield MIND.

Through the #PowerToDoMore campaign, we raised over £5,000. Over the course of the campaign, more than 1,000 collection boxes were ordered. Once full, this represents 15 tonnes – or 750,000 AA batteries – for recycling.

We all have the #PowerToDoMore. If you would like to find out more about ordering a free battery collection box, get in touch: [email protected]

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Photo of Thumbnail James Nash
James Nash - Commercial Manager at Valpak Ltd

James has worked in waste services procurement for over 11 years, seeing the introduction of the Waste Batteries Regulations in 2009/10. He has been essential to setting up Valpak’s battery collection network, which now numbers over 50,000 sites – ensuring that Valpak’s contractors and systems deliver the service levels required for both Valpak and its customers. Aside from batteries, James also trades a significant number of PRNs for Valpak’s packaging scheme, and manages WEEE contracts for over 10 local authorities.