New industry data shows that several countries including the UK are set to miss the 2012 target, and only very few countries such as Belgium and Germany are on track to meet the 2016 targets.
The information will be handed to the European Commission in the next fortnight.
“A couple of countries will reach the 2016 target but it will definitely be difficult for most countries to reach it,” an industry insider familiar with the figures said. “Some countries only started collecting batteries in the last year or so.”
One of those countries – the UK reportedly – had a collection rate in 2010 of just 10%, less than half the required rate, and 60% of its waste portable batteries were sent overseas for treatment.
Frustration on collection rates data
An EU official familiar with the issue told EurActiv that such figures were “frustrating” and that the collection by member states of the relevant information was “a delicate issue”.
“We don’t yet have a clear picture of collection rates at the European level, only partial information,” he said. But this would change soon, he believed.
If member states failed to meet the directive’s targets by the 26 September deadline next year, action would be taken rapidly.
“That’s for sure,” he said. “We will send letters and launch infringement proceedings as soon as we have the confirmations. Of that, there is no doubt.”
Figures in the recycling community voiced dismay at the prospect of the batteries directive’s target being partially missed.
“We are concerned that those targets [in the batteries directive] will not be met by all member states,” Hans Craen, the secretary general of the European Portable Batteries Association told EurActiv.
His fears were echoed by the German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer who called for more concerted action by member states.
“We need a coalition for economic and environmental progress between environmentally conscious legislators, progressive parts of industry and responsible citizens who want to put pressure on decision makers to really make this a priority,” he said.
As well as collection rates, the batteries directive, which was passed in July 2006, set stringent recycling targets for member states.
Sixty-five percent of lead acid batteries are supposed to be recycled, along with 75% of nickel-cadmium batteries and 50% of all other batteries.
But far from spurring a recycling boom, the directive coincided with a recession that has closed some of Europe’s biggest recycling plants, such as the Citron SA plant in Le Havre and the Valdi plant at Feurs, both after industrial accidents.
Their closures have reportedly reduced spare capacity and pushed up recycling prices, further hampering the fledgling battery recycling industry in the process
The Hungarian socialist MEP, Edit Herczog, who fronted the European Parliament’s recent battery collection day, insisted that the battery recycling industry would soon charge itself up.
“There’s a learning curve and an adoption curve and the member states which started later after entering the EU are of course lagging behind,” she told EurActiv.
“But generally speaking there isn’t a major problem in the EU,” she added.