Battery Recycling Mar04

IN Britain, about 750 million batteries are sold each year with the average family using around 30 batteries. Most of us simply bin the old ones and there is a national recycling rate of only 2% for disposable and 5% for rechargeable batteries. These recovery rates are much lower than those of some European Union states, such as Belgium and Holland which recover 60% of their batteries.


In contrast, the UKs collection and recycling rate for vehicle batteries, however, is 90% as most are returned to garages or industrial outlets because of their high recycled value.


Batteries containing heavy metals like nickel and cadmium leak in the ground as their casing corrodes, causing soil and water pollution and endangering wildlife. Cadmium, which is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, can bio-accumulate in fish, making them unfit for human consumption. Button cell batteries, containing mercury, pose similar dangers.


I am helping to amend an EU Directive in the European Parliament that regulates the collection and recycling of portable batteries and accumulators e.g. lead acid car batteries. Legislation is expected to include a 100% ban on landfill or incineration of automotive and industrial batteries and require member states to introduce a national collection and recycling scheme to facilitate consumers to return, without charge, used batteries.


As shadow draftsman, I have proposed amendments to allow EU nations flexibility to aim for recycling targets of 65% by weight for lead-acid batteries, 75% for nickel cadmium batteries and 55% for all other batteries. The cost of collection, treatment and recycling would be borne by the manufacturer. Local authorities, backed by central government in the UK, would need to encourage British households to co-operate to achieve high levels of collection in order to protect our environment. The European Commission estimates the cost of collection and recycling to be around 1 per British household per annum.




LOWER motor insurance premiums for women are under threat from proposed gender equality laws being discussed in the European Parliament.


Women are seen as safer drivers by the insurance industry because they drive shorter distances, have lower annual mileages and tend to drive more slowly. Therefore, it is not surprising that the insurance industry all over the world assesses the risk of accident and loss to be different for women and men drivers. Similarly, irrespective of gender, premiums are also lower for older drivers and for family saloons as opposed to sports cars.


The EU proposals under discussion would make it illegal for companies to take into account differences between men and women as drivers, when setting premiums. This could result in an increase in women's car insurance of between 10 and 15 %.


The insurance industry is in business to offer cover for risk of specific drivers with respect to gender, age, profession, type of vehicle, value of vehicle and geographic location. If premiums are priced incorrectly, insurers will be unable to settle claims when they arise. Like any other business, they should be free to price their product according to their estimation of cost for the risk covered.

Equal rights for men and women are indisputable. However, equal rights do not mean identical needs or responses. Gender equality is important in areas such as education and employment, but it is inapplicable in assessing risk for motor or life insurance.


The EU Directive on insurance should be formulated to facilitate business to offer cheap insurance and for consumers to receive products that are price competitive and have adequate guarantee of delivery. I shall play my part in proposing amendments to ensure that common sense prevails and premiums for women do not rise unnecessarily.