From 1 February UK retailers selling batteries will have a legal obligation to collect waste batteries if they sell over 32 kg per year (equivalent of one four-pack of AA batteries a day).
Consumers will be able to return their waste batteries to shops selling similar batteries, even if they do not buy anything there.
Varta divisional vice president Vince Armitage told MRW: “Come 1 February there will be a general level of confusion and lack of awareness among consumers and independents . There are a majority of retailers who are aware of the regulations but there are still a huge number who are not. People are still signing up to join battery compliance schemes on a daily basis and the Government is due to run a consumer awareness campaign towards the end of January or beginning of February.”
Marketing manager Paula Brinson Pyke added that 1 February will be a “damp squib” and “a lot of work still needs to be done by a lot of people” in order for the battery recycling message to reach the “bottom line”. She added that the Government’s campaign will involve press articles and other media channels but it will not be “picked up by everyone”. She explained that a prolonged campaign needs to take place over six to twelve months in order for consumers to bring in as much batteries as possible to collection points.
Under the regulations, battery compliance schemes have to also produce communication campaigns to inform consumers about battery recycling schemes. There are currently six BCSs in the UK after DHL pulled out of the approval process before 1 January (see MRW story).
Brinson Pyke said: “There are too many BCSs to come to a consensus. Who is going to control the communication campaign? Where is the spend going to be? Unless there is an umbrella body controlling them all you will not get a consensus. “
Armitage believed that if the BCSs were narrowed down to three or four there “may be consensus” and battery recycling system would be “managed better”.
He also said that as many collection points need to be established as possible in order for consumers to find it easy to bring batteries back to shops.
But British Retail Consortium head of environment Bob Gordon said the Government is taking proactive action over its consumer campaign. He said that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did not want to start a campaign now because it would be confusing when the collection infrastructure was still not in place. Gordon said that the Government will be targeting groups such as mothers through online forums such as Mumsnet and men through electrical gadget sites.
He added: “Consumer awareness will go up very quickly and I am very confident that this is going to happen. The question is whether consumers will change their behaviour which may be difficult to do. I think most retailers will be ready for it but larger retailers will be more ready for it. BCSs will be providing pots for retailers for collection and communication and independents will want to participate. If they are not aware they will soon be made aware and will comply.
“What will be difficult will be meeting our stretching targets.”